DRC army shells mutineers

2012-05-18 11:16

Goma - The Democratic Republic of Congo's military on Thursday shelled positions it believed were held by mutineers who have been fighting the army in the country's east, a military source said.

The army fired heavy artillery from tanks into the hills of Mbuzi and Tchanzu in Nord-Kivu province and received no return fire, the source said.

A spokesperson for the mutineers - former rebels who were integrated into the national army under a 2009 peace deal but defected after complaining of poor conditions - said they had "several wounded" but had not retreated.

"We kept our positions," the spokesperson, Vianney Kazarana, told AFP.

The mutineers, believed to number in the hundreds, are gathered in the Rutshuru territory on the border with Rwanda and Uganda at the far northeast of a small strip of the Virunga National Park.

On Saturday, government forces carried out air strikes against their headquarters in Runyonyi, a town near the Rwandan border, the army said.

The military has been fighting the mutineers since late April, first in Masisi territory, northwest of the provincial capital of Goma, and later in Rutshuru, where the dissidents fled and regrouped.

The mutineers, who began defecting in early April, have formed a new military group called the March 23 Movement (M23), comprising ex-members of the rebel National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).

Former CNDP commander Bosco Ntaganda is accused of leading the mutiny.

Ntaganda, known as "The Terminator", is wanted by the International Criminal Court on a war crimes charge of enlisting child soldiers.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said he was again forcing boys into military service, accusing him of forcibly recruiting at least 149 boys aged between 12 and 20 in the latest conflict.