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UN: Peacekeepers shoot 4 in Congo firefight

AP  |  United Nations 

UN peacekeepers in the Congo were drawn into a gun battle between unidentified gunmen and the M23 rebel group today and shot four of the attackers, a UN spokesman said.

About 30 unidentified people assaulted an M23 rebel position early today five miles (eight kilometres) 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 UN 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 UN 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.

First Published: Thu, July 11 2013. 00:45 IST