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DR Congo Rebels Seize Strategic Goma
A rebel group created just seven months ago has seized Goma and its international airport in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to witnesses.
Explosions and machine-gun fire rocked the lakeside city, which has a population of more than one million people, as M23 rebels pushed towards the centre.
By early afternoon the gunfire stopped and the fighters, believed to be backed by neighbouring Rwanda, marched through the main streets while their commanders paraded in all-terrain vehicles.
Rwanda has been accused of equipping them with sophisticated weaponry, including night vision goggles and 120mm mortars.
The UN has around 1,400 peacekeepers in and around Goma but they did nothing to prevent the M23 advancing because they do not have a mandate to engage the rebels.
The UN Group of Experts is expected to release a report detailing the role Rwanda has played in the recruitment, financing and arms of the new rebel movement.
Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said Rwandan soldiers had crossed into Goma, hiking over footpaths across a volcano between the two countries.
Speaking from the capital Kinshasa, he said: "Goma is in the process of being occupied by Rwanda.
"We have people who saw the Rwandan army traverse our frontier at the Nyamuragira volcano. They have occupied the airport and they are shooting inside the town.
"Our army is trying to riposte but this poses an enormous problem for them - this is an urban centre where hundreds of thousands of people live."
The claim that some of the fighters are Rwandan soldiers has not been verified.
Goma was threatened by rebels in 2008 when fighters from the now-defunct National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) stopped just outside the city.
A peace deal was reached the following year, but it collapsed in April when up to 700 soldiers - most former CNDP members - defected from the army.
Analysts say the uprising is fuelled by Congo's vast mineral riches, many of which are located in North Kivu province where Goma is located.
The rebel fighters are thought to be moving from Goma southwards towards nearby Bukavu, another provincial capital.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Rwandan President Paul Kagame to contact the M23 leaders and halt their advance.
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