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Africa

Rebels advance against Democratic Republic of Congo troops

The M23 rebel group has continued its advance against government troops in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Members of the group have seized the town of Rutshuru.

Renegade soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) captured another city in the volatile eastern part of the county on Sunday, sending government troops fleeing as violence escalates there.

Members of the M23 rebel movement seized the town of Rutshuru in the resource rich eastern province of Nord Kivu, which borders Uganda.

"We took control of the town of Rutshuru before noon and sent the (Congolese army) fleeing," Colonel Vianney Kazarama of the M23 movement told the Reuters news agency by telephone.

On Friday, the M23 rebels had captured a key border post, Bunagana, on the Ugandan frontier after a repelling a government offensive. Some 600 government troops fled across the border to seek refuge in Uganda.

Mutinous soldiers

The M23 movement is made up of former ethnic Tutsi rebels who integrated themselves into the DRC's national military under a 2009 peace accord. But they split from the military in April, reportedly over a dispute about pay and conditions. M23 refers to the date in March when the accord was signed.

The group's suspected leader, General Bosco Ntaganda, is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of war crimes. Ntaganda allegedly conscripted child soldiers under the age of 15 between 2002 and 2003.

Plagued by violence

Turmoil has gripped the DRC's eastern provinces since the split in military, ending nearly two years of peace. The violence has displaced some 200,000 people and forced another 20,000 to flee to neighboring countries such as Rwanda and Uganda.

The DRC is similar in size to Western Europe and has a population of more than 73 million people. Although the DRC is rich with natural resources, its people are among the most impoverished in the world.

The US Geological Survey has reported that around 70 percent of the planet's coltan is located in the DRC, an ore that is critical for the manufacture of electronics. Some 40 percent of the world's cobalt and a third of its diamonds are also located in the central African nation.

The country has suffered two majors over the past 20 years, which took the lives of nearly 5 million people and left the nation in ruin.

slk/jlw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)