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UN: Peacekeepers shoot 4 in Congo firefight

July 10, 2013

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo were drawn into a gun battle between unidentified gunmen and the M23 rebel group Wednesday and shot four of the attackers, a U.N. spokesman said.

About 30 unidentified people assaulted an M23 rebel position early Wednesday five miles (eight kilometers) from Goma in Congo’s North Kivu province, spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

The M23 rebels counter-attacked, and as the assailants retreated they fired shots at the U.N. peacekeepers’ post, Nesirky said.

“In accordance with their rules of engagement, the peacekeepers fired warning shots before being forced to engage the attackers. In the firefight that ensued, four attackers were injured” and captured by the peacekeepers, Nesirky said.

He says they were treated on the scene and evacuated to a Goma hospital.

The Congo conflict is a spillover from the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda. Hundreds of Hutus who participated in the mass slaughter escaped into Congo and still fight there.

The M23 began in 2012 as a mutiny. Hundreds of soldiers, who previously belonged to another rebel group, deserted the Congolese army, which had agreed to integrate them into their ranks. The fighters routed government forces and swept past U.N. peacekeepers last November, briefly occupying Goma, one of eastern Congo’s biggest cities. They withdrew only after the government agreed to negotiate.

Trying to separate multiple armed groups in the region and protect civilians is the 22,000-strong peacekeeping force MONUSCO.

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