UN helicopters opened fire on rebels fighting Congolose troops in eastern Congo on Wednesday, according to a UN military spokesman. The UN intervention comes amid fears that rebels are trying to re-take the city of Goma.
A special United Nations intervention unit became involved after fighting began around 8 a. m. local time in the hills of the Kibati area, 15 kilometres north of Goma.
The UN confirmed one peacekeeper was killed, with three already wounded by shrapnel from fighting on Saturday.
The UN's newly created intervention brigade, called MONUSCO, has joined the fight alongside troops of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
"MONUSCO has enlisted all of its attack helicopters and its artillery ... to push back the M23 offensive that is under way right now on the hills of Kibati," MONUSCO spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Basse told journalists in the Congan capital of Kinshasa.
Consisting of Tanzanian, South African and Malawian troops, MONUSCO has a mandate to engage with rebel forces fighting government troops. This gives them a stronger mandate than UN peacekeepers already in Congo, who can only protect citizens.
Last November, M23 insurgents briefly seized the city - home to nearly one million people - before they were beaten back into the hills north of the city. Peace talks between the rebel group and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo have repeatedly stalled.
UN intent on protecting Goma
Martin Kobler, head of the UN peacekeeping mission, said the UN could not “guarantee the security of Goma's population but we can do all we can to improve security and prevent shells and other threats.”
The M23 rebels were formed in April 2012 and named after the peace treaty signed on March 23, 2009. They are at odds with the government over claims that terms of that peace agreement were not met.
ph/ipj,ph (AP, Reuters)