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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 12:12 GMT
Congo rebels lose northern town

Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have confirmed the loss of a town in the north of the country which they say was overrun by troops fighting for President Laurent Kabila.

Battle for the heart of Africa
A spokesman for the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), Kin-kiey Mulumba, said Congolese soldiers had occupied the town of Bokungu after using helicopters, boats and Antonov aircraft in a long offensive against rebel positions.

He said the Congolese troops were backed by soldiers of the Zimbabwean army, and Rwandan militia fighters who oppose the Rwandan Government.

Mr Mulumba said the RCD had been outnumbered and forced to disengage.

This is the most flagrant violation since the Lusaka peace accords went into effect
RCD spokeman Kin-kiey Mulumba
He described the attack on Bokungu as the most serious ceasefire violation since the signing of a peace agreement over three months ago, and warned that the rebels would fight back.

The capture of Bokungu appears to be part of an attempt by President Kabila's allied to break through rebel lines and reach a group of Zimbabwean soldiers who are besieged at Ikela, 70km south-east of Bokungu.

Reports on the number of trapped Zimababweans range from 700 to 3,000.

The Zimbabwean soldiers are part of a 10,000-strong force which is fighting to defend the government of President Laurent Kabila.

A Zimbabwe military spokesman said his forces would continue bomb attacks on the rebels, to defend the Zimbabwean forces and to oust the rebels from the area around Ikela.

Rebels 'capture plane'

There has also been fighting around the town of Basankusu.

MLC soldiers MLC rebels have made gains in central Congo
The Ugandan-backed rebels of the Congolese Freedom Movement (MLC) say they have captured the town and a transport aircraft, and taken 120 prisoners.

The latest fighting is among the most severe to have taken place since the peace deal signed by government, the rebels and the rebels' foreign backers.

Diplomats in Kinshasa have expressed concern that the latest fighting could mean the collapse of the accord.

United Nations military liaison officers have been sent to different parts of the country to review the current military situation and prepare the ground for a full-scale UN mission, provisionally scheduled to begin next year.

The UN Security Council has backed proposals to send 500 observers into Congo, but it wants clear guarantees that the peace is holding before giving formal authorisation for their deployment.
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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  Africa
Zimbabwe losses add up in Congo
16 Nov 99 |  Africa
OAU monitors enter DR Congo
11 Nov 99 |  Africa
UN team starts work in Congo
03 Sep 99 |  Africa
Rwanda hails Congo victory
08 Jul 99 |  Africa
Congo peace plan: the main points
02 Oct 99 |  Africa
Congo accused of breaking truce
23 Jun 99 |  Africa
DR Congo: What price peace?

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