Rebels tighten their grip in eastern Congo | world | Hindustan Times
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Rebels tighten their grip in eastern Congo

world Updated: Nov 02, 2008 09:14 IST

AP
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Tutsi-led rebels tightened their hold on newly seized swaths of eastern Congo, forcing tens of thousands of frightened, rain-soaked civilians out of makeshift refugee camps and stopping some from fleeing to government-held territory.

Aid organisation said they were increasingly worried about a lack of food and shelter.

European officials offered sympathy but no concrete promise of military reinforcements for the Congolese troops and UN peacekeepers routed by rebel forces in the sudden and dramatic escalation of eastern Congo's civil war in the past week.

The rebels appeared to be maintaining a unilateral cease-fire they declared a day earlier, focusing on consolidating territories that stretch to the doorstep of the provincial capital, Goma, instead of taking the city.

The rebels, who said people were leaving the refugee camps of their own free will, asserted that they stopped short of Goma in hopes of stopping the chaos that had engulfed it as government troops fled along with tens of thousands of refugees. However, Goma was also the site of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda's greatest defeat when UN attack helicopters fired on his fighters advancing on the city in December, killing hundreds of them. It was not clear if that experience influenced his decision.

The area that Nkunda has seized is a minerally and agriculturally rich area that commands much of the access to the Rwandan and Ugandan borders.

Britain's minister for Africa said the UK could send troops if Nkunda's cease-fire fails but the first reinforcements should be soldiers deployed elsewhere in the country with the UN force known by its French acronym, MONUC.