Gun battles break out in DRC city

Gun Free SA has called for stricter laws. Photo: ISTOCK
Gun Free SA has called for stricter laws. Photo: ISTOCK

Clashes erupted early yesterday in Beni, a city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with residents reporting the sound of gunshots and heavy weapons fire.

Exchanges of fire could be heard in the city's eastern suburbs, with a spokesman for the DRC armed forces confirming a gun battle had broken out between troops and a new rebel group. Lieutenant Jules Tshikudi said Mai-Mai rebels had attacked army positions in Kalau and Rwangoma, two suburbs of the city.

"The fighting is ongoing. The army is in the process of repelling them," he said, adding that it was not immediately clear which faction of the Mai-Mai was involved.

Since Saturday, troops have been clashing with the Mai-Mai, a "self-defence" militia that counts members of DRC's Nande, Hunde and Kobo communities as well as rivals from the Nyaturu, who represent ethnic Hutus, among its ranks.

At the weekend, clashes between troops and Mai-Mai rebels just south of Beni left a soldier and 12 militants dead.

The army said some of those involved in yesterday's clashes were prisoners on the run who took part in a mass jail break on June 11 when more than 930 inmates escaped from Beni's Kangwai Prison.

Beni is in the restive North Kivu province, a region plagued by regular flare-ups of ethnic bloodshed that over the past year has seen attacks and reprisal raids between Hutu and Nande militias.

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