DR Congo rebel attacks on gold mine and South African soldiers kill 14

Rebel attacks in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have killed at least 14 people, including two South African soldiers, amid an uptick in violence.

At least 12 people were killed and 16 others kidnapped by rebels from the CODECO armed group at a gold mine near Djugu district in Ituri province, a civil society organisation said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, South Africa said on Thursday that two of its soldiers had been killed by mortar fire in eastern DRC, the first fatalities since it deployed troops there.

“As a result of this indirect fire, the SANDF suffered two fatalities and three members sustained injuries. The injured were taken to the nearest hospital in Goma for medical attention,” the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said.

Both of the attacks took place on Wednesday.

Violence has been on the rise in the conflict-hit region in recent weeks, with many blaming attacks on the M23 rebel group that has been fighting Congolese soldiers in the region for years.

Kinshasa says M23, one of more than 120 armed groups in the region, is receiving military support from neighbouring Rwanda. Experts from the United Nations and European Union have said there is evidence backing this but Rwanda denies the allegations.

But M23 has indicated in recent statements that it is amid an onslaught in eastern Congo, leading to fears the group is again targeting Goma, which it once seized 10 years ago.

CODECO, a separate rebel group, is a loose association of militia groups mainly from the ethnic Lendu farming community. It has fought other rebel groups and is known to target areas rich in gold and minerals in the resource-rich country.

Southern African military mission

Efforts to reduce violence in the DRC have seen the deployment of thousands of South African troops as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission to fight against armed rebel groups in the east.

South Africa announced this week it would be sending a new contingent of 2,900 soldiers to eastern Congo. It was not immediately clear if those killed and injured in Wednesday’s attack were part of that new deployment.

The base that was hit was in the North Kivu province, SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said. The injured were taken to a hospital in the regional capital Goma.

More than one million people have been displaced by the conflict since November, aid groups say. That adds to the 6.9 million who already fled their homes in one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises.

On Thursday, the Norwegian Refugee Council said the recent advance of armed groups toward the key town of Sake, near Goma, “poses an imminent threat to the entire aid system” in eastern Congo.

“The isolation of Goma, home to over 2 million people and hosting hundreds of thousands of displaced individuals who have fled clashes with armed groups, would bring disastrous consequences to the region,” the NRC said.

Source: Aljazeera

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