TITLE=CONGO FIGHTING (L ONLY)
INTRO: Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo
have called for the government of President Laurent
Kabila to halt a military offensive in the country's
northwest. As Todd Pitman reports from Kigali in
neighboring Rwanda, the Congo rebels say the offensive
could endanger the lives of thousands of foreign
troops who support the government.
TEXT: The spokesman for the main rebel Congolese
Rally for Democracy (Kin-Kiey Mulumba) reported what
he calls "very bloody" fighting (Wednesday) between
rebels and government troops near the town of Bokungu,
about one-thousand kilometers northeast of the
Rebel officials say government forces are trying to
break through rebel lines to liberate up to three-
thousand Zimbabwean, Namibian, and Congolese troops
backing President Kabila.
Rebels say they have surrounded the troops at an
airport in Ikela, a small town in rebel territory.
Mr. Mulumba says the encircled troops are in good
condition and even have become friendly with rebel
soldiers in the area. But Mr. Mulumba says their
lives may be threatened if government attacks
Fighting around Bokungu broke out last week when
government troops, equipped with helicopter gunships
as well as gunboats, launched a series of attacks
against rebel positions in the area.
During the past few days the fighting has intensified.
Bokungu was bombed by a government-allied cargo plane
Tuesday, was captured by government forces, and then
recaptured by rebels.
Diplomatic efforts to provide a safe passage for the
encircled soldiers have failed. A senior Rwandan
delegation recently met Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe in Harare to discuss the subject, but there was
Rwandan and rebel officials say Zimbabwe rejected an
offer to allow government-allied troops to leave on
foot through a safe corridor to the north, in part
because they would be required to leave their
equipment and weapons behind.
The rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda, and the
government supported by Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola,
signed a peace deal three-months ago in the Zambian
But each side in the 15-month conflict has repeatedly
accused the other of violating the accord, which now
seems to exist only on paper. (SIGNED)
01-Dec-1999 11:28 AM EDT (01-Dec-1999 1628 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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