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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
New fighting flares in DR Congo
Congo rebels
Rival rebel groups are trying to assert their control in North Kivu
A new round of clashes has broken out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as United Nations troops deploy to stop bitter ethnic fighting in the town of Bunia.

The latest fighting is in North Kivu province between the rebel RCD-Goma and the RCD-ML groups, a separate conflict to that between ethnic Hema and Lendu militias around Bunia.

Thousands of people have been fleeing the town of Lubero, some 250 kilometres south-west of Bunia, where the fighting is concentrated.

The latest fighting is taking place as a United Nations peace mission visits the country.

Trading accusations

The Ugandan Monitor newspaper says that four main towns in North Kivu - Kanyabayonga, Mbingi, Alimbongo and Bunyatenge - have been captured by RCD-Goma.

RCD-Goma say they are protecting themselves from RCD-ML forces, who they say are backed by government forces and ethnic Hutu extremists involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

RCD-ML on their part accuse RCD Goma of being backed by neighbouring Rwanda.

Journalist Dino Mahtani told the BBC Network Africa programme that the latest attacks seem to be a concerted effort by both militias to assert their control in the area.

Mistrust

On the first day of the UN peace mission, Congolese Foreign Minister Leonard She Okintundu condemned the neighbouring states of Uganda and Rwanda for allegedly pillaging the east of the country.

Last year, all three countries agreed a peace deal and Uganda and Rwanda withdrew their forces from DR Congo.

French troops
French troops have arrived in Bunia to try and restore peace

But the BBC's Mark Doyle in Kinshasa says the condemnation showed that mistrust is still rife.

French troops have been arriving in Bunia to try and end weeks of violence there.

About 200 troops, mostly French, have now arrived in the battered town of Bunia where civilians are in hiding after a series of massacres in the surrounding Ituri region.

A total of 1,400 soldiers are due to arrive in Bunia over the next few days.

French Mirage 2000 ground attack jets are providing air support for the UN peace team, reports the French news agency, AFP.

The war in DR Congo - a country the size of western Europe - is estimated to have led to the deaths of three million people in the past five years.


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