KINSHASA (Reuters) – The armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday said M23 rebels and their allies killed 50 civilians in a massacre in the eastern town of Kishishe this week , which M23 denies.
Congolese troops and the M23, a militia led by Tutsi, have been fighting for months in the restive east of the country, each accusing the other of initiating attacks.
“The M23 movement denies the baseless allegations against it in Kishishe,” the group’s political spokesman, Lawrence Kanyuka, said in a statement.
“M23 reminds the international and national community that it has never targeted civilians,” he said.
The United Nations and a US diplomat also said they had information about Tuesday’s killings of civilians in Kishishe, North Kivu province, but did not give details. Both called for an investigation.
“We are deeply saddened by the massacre of civilians in Kishishe, which may constitute a war crime,” Stephanie Miley, chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy in Kinshasa, wrote on Twitter.
A spokesman for the Secretary-General of the United Nations said that the United Nations had received reports of human rights abuses during clashes between the M23 and local militia in Kishishe, including a large number of civilian casualties.
Congolese and UN experts say neighboring Rwanda supports the M23, which Rwanda has consistently denied. The two countries entered talks last week in Angola aimed at finding a solution to the conflict.
One of their agreements was that the East African Community (EAC) regional force would intervene against the M23 if it did not stop fighting and withdraw from its position.
The EAC began sending troops to eastern Congo earlier this year to help fight various armed groups. A South Sudanese military spokesman on Thursday said a battalion of 700 South Sudanese soldiers would be sent to join the regional force.
Earlier on Thursday, thousands of people took to the streets of Goma and Bukavu, the two main cities in eastern Congo, to protest the deteriorating security situation.