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DRC Army Takes Back Rebel-Controlled Town

By Selah Hennessy
05 December 2007

Army leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo say they have taken back the strategic eastern village of Mushake from forces allied to renegade rebel leader Laurent Nkunda. The army says it will move north into rebel territory in an effort to eradicate Nkunda's forces. Selah Hennessy files this report for VOA from Goma.

Colonel Delphin Kahimbi is the second-in-command of the army in eastern Congo's North Kivu Province.

Speaking from the grassy hills of Mushake and surrounded by his soldiers, he says army troops are pushing the rebels north.

"From 9:30 the government army took control of Mushake and right now the fight is going in the direction of Kirorirwe," he said.

Army troops and rebel fighters led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda, have clashed in a number of skirmishes since August.

Government forces launched its latest offensive against rebel fighters on Monday, bombarding rebel positions around Mushake with attack helicopters, rockets, and artillery.

Colonel Kahimbi says Mushake is a strategically important location. He says rebel control of the town, which stands on the main road leading out of Goma, has blocked access to parts of the province for several months.

"We are in the main road which is going from Goma to Massissi center," he added. "So why Mushake was a very big strategic area, well you can see we were controlling one part from Goma to the door of Mushake, then one part from Massissi to Mushake."

Kahimbi says the army is using its maximum power to rout out the rebel forces. He says reinforcements will be arriving in the region soon and fighting will continue until the rebel forces are defeated or agree to rejoin the national army.

But some observers are skeptical, pointing out that the Congolese army is undisciplined and under-equipped and has a long way to go before defeating rebel forces.

Meanwhile, fighting continued on the outskirts of Mushake long into the afternoon.

Truckloads of armed soldiers made their way to the front, lumbering along a winding dirt road that cuts through the green hills.

But as combat moves north, people in Sake, a nearby town that was deserted Tuesday, were returning to their homes.

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