UN peacekeeper killed in Congo fighting

One United Nations peacekeeper has been killed and three others injured in fighting with the March 23 movement (M23) rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a UN spokesman has said.

The peacekeeper was killed on Wednesday in clashes between the rebels and government troops backed by the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, known as MONUSCO, near the flashpoint city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, AFP reported.

On Wednesday, the Congolese army and UN forces launched a joint operation against M23 rebels in the Kibati area, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) north of Goma.

“The operation is ongoing and we have just heard that one UN peacekeeper has been killed and three others have been wounded,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.

Haq, however, did not reveal the nationalities of the casualties.

UN forces, including from the landmark new offensive intervention brigade, used attack helicopters to push back M23 rebels from positions near Goma.

“MONUSCO attack helicopters engaged the Kibati hills, while (UN) artillery and that of the (regular army) went into action against M23 positions south of the ‘Three Towers’,” Madnodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the UN mission, said in a statement.

The Congolese army is battling the rebels with the help of the new UN intervention brigade. The brigade, made up of some 3,000 troops, has a more robust mandate compared to previous UN peacekeeping missions.

The intervention brigade was created after the M23 rebels invaded and briefly occupied Goma, home to about one million people, last November. The rebels withdrew from the city on December 1, 2012 under a ceasefire accord.

The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the countryâ„¢s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.

The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.

Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

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Republished from: Press TV