Breaking NewsA spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the D. R. Congo, Lt-Col Félix Prosper Basse told me this morning that 2 shells landed in Goma town around 8.00 am.

Three people were killed and several injured.

The attack was condemned by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Congo, Martin Kobler.

Mr Kobler, who is currently in Goma, declared the attack was ‘indiscriminate’ and promised that the UN would act to protect civilians.

Lt-Col Basse said Mr Kobler ordered the UN to launch an ‘energetic’ response to the shelling, warning that the act ‘will not go unpunished.’

Fighting erupted between the Congolese army – FARDC – and rebels of the M23 at 5.00 in an area 15k North of Goma.

UN experts have repeatedly reported that the M23 are supported and armed by the Rwandan government.

Update

Congo: Rocket Lands in Goma, Kills 3 in New Attack

GOMA, Congo August 23, 2013 (AP)
By NICK LONG and SALEH MWANAMILONGO Associated Press

Congolese soldiers supported by U.N. forces fought rebels in the country’s deteriorating east for hours early Saturday, officials said, while a rocket landed inside the town of Goma and killed three people as border tensions escalated between Rwanda and Congo.

Scores of angry residents took to the streets of Goma in protest following several days of violence that has left at least seven dead and dozens wounded.

Congo immediately blamed the attacks on neighboring Rwanda, which has long been accused of supporting the eastern Congolese rebel movement known as M23.

“We wonder, for how long will the international community continue to tolerate these offenses?” Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the Congolese government, told The Associated Press.

Rwanda, which has vigorously denied allegations by the United Nations and others that it has provided support to the M23 rebels fighting the Congolese government, also accused Congolese forces of attacking Rwanda. The Rwandan army said mortar fire landed in several villages along the border Friday afternoon.

“The continued indiscriminate bombing of Rwandan villages by (Congolese) armed forces is unacceptable and must stop immediately,” said Brig. Joseph Nzabamwita, a spokesman for Rwanda’s military.

The M23 rebel group briefly overtook Goma late last November and subsequent peace talks in neighboring Uganda have repeatedly stalled. M23’s leaders previously headed other rebel groups in the region that were backed by Rwanda.

On Friday, the U.N. and Congolese officials confirmed that the new U.N. intervention brigade had shelled rebel positions on Thursday for the first time since the force was created in March.

Congolese army spokesman Col. Olivier Hamuli told The Associated Press that the fighting resumed around 5 a.m. Saturday and was continuing seven hours later. Mende, the Congolese government spokesman, said the U.N. brigade had provided logistical and other support.

New mission chief Martin Kobler, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative in Congo, told journalists Friday that the U.N. brigade will protect Goma, a city of nearly a million people on the Congo-Rwanda border that was briefly overtaken by rebels in November. He said the U.N.’s objective in recent heavy fighting outside Goma was “to defend the town but also to eliminate the M23’s positions.”

A U.N. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the U.N. operation have not been made public, had said that Thursday’s mission was a defensive operation to protect civilians and U.N. bases — not an offensive operation.

The intervention brigade, consisting of Tanzanian, South African and Malawian soldiers, was created by the U.N. Security Council in March and has deployed to Congo over the past few months, reinforcing 17,000 U.N. blue helmets already with the mission. The brigade has a stronger mandate than past U.N. peacekeeping missions and is authorized to fight the rebel forces operating in eastern Congo.

There has been widespread skepticism in Congo that the intervention brigade will be a game-changing addition to the existing U.N. force, which stood by when M23 fighters briefly captured Goma late last year. Mineral-rich eastern Congo has been destabilized by a myriad of armed groups since the aftermath of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide when Hutu extremists blamed for the bloodshed fled into neighboring Congo.

Update

 

UK government staff withdraw from DRC city of Goma

Tanzanian Forces of the UN Intervention Brigade attend a training session outside Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 9 August 2013 A new UN brigade has the mandate to neutralise and disarm the rebels

DR Congo Seeks Democracy

UK Foreign Office staff who had been working in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo are to leave the city overnight following heavy fighting in the area, the department has said.

UN troops in the country have launched an offensive, shelling positions held by rebels near Goma.

The UN was responding to shelling from M23 rebels on Goma on Thursday, a spokesman said.

The Foreign Office said it would review the situation on Sunday.

A “small number” of staff were affected, it added.

It has also updated its travel advice, advising against all travel to some parts of the country.

UK Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, tweeted: “Very concerned by reports of shelling in #Goma and upstart of violence. Vital that tensions are reduced quickly.”

Map

Congolese officials said five civilians in the city died in the shelling on Friday.

An M23 spokesman told the BBC it had not attacked the city, blaming the army for provoking the fighting.

A new UN intervention brigade is deploying to the area to tackle rebels. It has a mandate to neutralise and disarm rebel fighters.

Its 3,000 soldiers are joining the regular UN peacekeeping force, Monusco, which has more than 18,000 troops on the ground with a mandate to protect civilians.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied UN allegations that it has been backing the M23 rebels.

Like Rwanda’s leadership, M23 fighters mostly come from the Tutsi community.

They deserted from the Congolese army in April 2012, forcing an estimated 800,000 people from their homes in the ensuing unrest in the mineral-rich region.

Peace talks taking place in Uganda this year to resolve their grievances have stalled.