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Military insurgents resume attacks in North Kivu

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KINSHASA, 1 Feb 2006 (IRIN) - Renewed attacks by military insurgents in North Kivu Province, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have cut short an interagency mission to evaluate humanitarian needs in area, an official of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Office (OCHA) has said.

"We had a window of opportunity on 26 and 27 January, but humanitarian access has been suspended since 28 January because of security concerns," said Patrick Lavand'homme, head of OCHA in Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu.

The military insurgents launched their latest attacks in North Kivu's northern territory of Rutshuru on 28 January, displacing more than 2,000 people into Goma, according to the Congolese army and humanitarian sources.

The international medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) had also been forced to suspend its operations in the area.

The insurgents renewed their attacks after a respite of three days, causing the new wave of displacement from the villages of Kiwandja, Rwindi, Kibirizi, Bunagana and Kanyabayonga in Rutshuru territory.

"At the moment, some of the IDPs [internally displaced persons] are living with families in Goma. Others are being housed in the former governor's offices," said Lavand'homme.

Sources close to the military command in North Kivu indicated that the Congolese army, with helicopter support from the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), had responded to the latest attacks and forced the insurgents to retreat from most of the areas.

"We drove them out of Rwindi and other areas, but Kibirizi is still in the hands of the insurgents," said an official of the Congolese army.

The latest fighting follows a previous wave of attacks by insurgents against the Congolese army's 5th brigade that began in the province on 17 January, displacing thousands of civilians - some of whom fled to neighbouring Uganda.

Reports differ as to the identity of the insurgents, with local residents saying the attackers are loyal to renegade Congolese general, Laurent Nkunda, who is alleged to have the backing of the Rwandan military.


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