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Fighting Among Rival Factions Erupts in Eastern Congo

Monday, December 20, 2004; Page A17

GOMA, Congo, Dec. 19 -- Fighting among rival factions ended days of relative calm in eastern Congo on Sunday, while Rwanda withdrew a threat to send troops into the country.

Soldiers loyal to the Congolese government battled rebels reportedly backed by Rwanda around the deserted farming town of Kanyabayonga, 100 miles north of Goma, said Iliane Nabaa, a U.N. spokeswoman in Kinshasa, the capital.

There were also reports of fighting near the town of Nyabiondo, 31 miles to the southwest, U.N. spokeswoman Jacqueline Chenard said.

Fighting erupted more than a week ago between government reinforcements sent to eastern Congo and a faction that was backed by Rwanda during Congo's five-year war, a conflict that caused millions of deaths.

The United Nations says at least 100,000 people have been displaced by recent clashes between rival army factions.

Rwandan officials had threatened to send troops into Congo after growing frustrated by the Congolese government's failure to disarm Hutu militias who took refuge in Congo after Rwanda's 1994 genocide, in which about 800,000 people were killed.

Rwanda says the militias form the nucleus of rebel groups that have staged recent attacks in Rwanda from their jungle bases.

Rwanda's foreign minister, Charles Murigande, said Sunday that it was now up to the international community to disarm the Hutu militias.

"We are no longer going to threaten to go to Congo. . . . We're going to leave this problem in the hands of the international community," he said.

Congo has accused Rwanda of already sending in troops to support Congolese rebels and responded to Rwanda's latest announcement with skepticism.

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