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Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK
DR Congo army moves on rebel HQ
A Congolese army soldier in the mountains in the east of the country
The army is taking up positions in the mountains
Ahead of Monday's deadline for rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to disarm, government forces are within 1km of the stronghold of Mushaki.

The government has given renegade General Laurent Nkunda and his fighters until 15 October to cease hostilities and join the army or face tough action.

A BBC correspondent says the once-bustling town of Mushaki, 50km west of Goma, is practically deserted.

Both the army and Gen Nkunda accuse the other of breaking a recent ceasefire.

The fighting in North Kivu province has raised concern for the thousands of displaced people who have been forced out of their homes.

map

Aid workers say people are heading further north into rebel-held territory, where they are now unable to reach them.

Gen Nkunda says he is fighting to protect DR Congo's Tutsi minority and accuses the government of supporting Rwandan Hutu rebels - the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) - who fled to DR Congo after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

The army scored their first real victory against Gen Nkunda's forces when they captured Karuba earlier this week.

Refuge

The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman, who visited Mushaki on Friday, says government soldiers have taken up positions on the road south of the town and on the surrounding mountains.

Renegade Congolese Tutsi General

There are also rebel fighters in the mountains and in the town and sporadic mortar explosions could be heard.

The thousands of ethnic Tutsis displaced in recent fighting who had sought refuge in the town - setting up spontaneous tent camps - have disappeared, he says.

The majority of them have moved further north into Gen Nkunda's territory instead of going south towards Goma where the aid workers are able to bring them support.

Our correspondent says he met some displaced people who had managed to slip away without the rebels noticing.

They said the rebels had wanted to keep civilians nearby - perhaps in case of an intensification of government attacks.

KEY FORCES IN THE KIVUS
FLNK - new group made up mainly of Congolese Mai Mai with some Rwandan Hutus formerly in the FDLR
FDLR - Hutu militia made up of former Rwandan soldiers and others who fled into Congo after the 1994 genocide
Congolese army
Gen Laurent Nkunda, with an estimated 5,000 soldiers
Monuc - UN Mission in the DR Congo

Another reason why people may be moving north, deeper into the Masisi Mountains, instead of south, is that the mountains offers better grazing areas for their cattle on which their livelihoods depend.

Our reporter says there is also some anti-Tutsi feeling among other groups in eastern DR Congo and they may feel safer under the protection of Gen Nkunda's men.

On Friday afternoon, rebels around Mushaki could be seen rounding up cattle - one cow is worth more than $300 - in preparedness to flee if necessary, he says.

According to the UN, the renewed fighting has made it hard to reach more than 300,000 people who rely on food aid, while 150,000 remain out of reach.

A five-year war in DR Congo ended in 2003, but the 17,600 UN peacekeepers in the country (4,300 of them in North Kivu alone) have struggled to keep a lid on instability since then.



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