JULY 15, 2010: Congo army clashes with Ugandan rebels, 40,000 flee

Congo army clashes with Ugandan rebels, 40,000 flee

Source: Reuters - AlertNet

By Katrina Manson

KINSHASA, July 15 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo troops are fighting Ugandan rebels in oil-rich eastern Congo in clashes that have killed two dozen combatants and forced thousands of civilians to flee, military and humanitarian sources said on Thursday.

These are the first clashes in years between Congo's FARDC army and the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) -- a rebel group trying to set up an Islamic state in Uganda.

"People are fleeing into places south of the attacks -- our best estimate is 40,000 people," Ellie Kemp at Oxfam told Reuters by telephone on Thursday, adding that villages have emptied as people seek shelter in schools and churches.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 14,000 people needed urgent, life-saving help. UN agencies have sent a rapid response team to help.

Congo's army said it attacked the rebels in Eringite village in North Kivu province late on Wednesday.

"We have killed 22 so far and captured four," General Vainquer Mayala, in charge of the operation, told Reuters. "The fight will take time," he said, adding that three FARDC soldiers had been killed.

Mayala said the army had recovered assault rifles, grenades and rocket launchers from the rebels, who may number as many as 600 according to military and intelligence sources.

Uganda, where 73 people were killed on Sunday in bomb attacks claimed by the Somali rebel group Al Shabaab, reinforced its troop presence along the Congolese border last month, citing the re-emergence of the ADF.

The fighting is taking place to the north of Lake Edward, where SOCO International <SIA.L> and Dominion Petroleum <DOPL.L> won a long-awaited award to explore for oil last month.

Several other rebel groups, including Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army and the Rwandan Hutu rebel group FDLR, are also active in the Kivu provinces in eastern Congo. (Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Tim Pearce)

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