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Conflict flares up for 2nd day in eastern Congo

Fighting erupted for a second consecutive day yesterday between the Congolese army and rebels in the eastern part of the war-ravaged nation, raising regional tensions.

A front-line Congolese commander declared that neighboring Rwanda had targeted his troops. “Rwanda was shelling us,” Gen. Bahuma Ambamba said.

Rwanda has denied that allegation, which came a day after its government said the Congolese army had fired shells into Rwanda. A top U.N. official said the world body could not confirm either side’s allegations but that they were an issue of concern. He urged all parties to seek a political solution and return to the negotiating table to solve their differences.

“We are not letting go of the negotiations,” said Ray Virgilio Torres, the regional head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Congo. “We want to make sure that this does not escalate.”

The renewed clashes broke out days after talks between the Congolese government and the M23 rebel movement in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, broke down.

The M23 rebellion was launched in 2012 by disaffected Congolese soldiers who wanted the government to honor the terms of a 2009 peace deal following a previous rebellion. U.N. investigators have alleged that Rwanda is backing the M23 rebels, which its government has publicly denied.

Nearly a year ago, the rebels seized the eastern Congolese city of Goma in a show of force but later withdrew voluntarily.

Following the breakdown in talks last week, the Congolese government declared that it would not grant amnesty to the M23 leadership or reintegrate its soldiers into the national army.

In an address to lawmakers this week, Congolese President Joseph Kabila vowed to use military force to quell the rebellion.

“The government will not continue to expose the lives of our compatriots to blind bombings and abuses of all kinds,” he said. M23, he added, “is caught between the force of the army and a narrow political escape route.”

On Friday, the fighting began.

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