NEW YORK, November 20 (RIA Novosti) - The situation in Goma, a strategic city in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo seized by the M23 rebel group, is “critical,” UN spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey said.
“The situation in and around Goma has reached a critical stage,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by the UN News Centre. “The M23 military advances have continued.”
“Reports indicate that the M23 has wounded civilians, continued abductions of children and women, destroyed and looted property, and intimidated journalists and those who have attempted to resist their control,” he went on.
M23 rebel spokesman Col. Vianney Kazarama told Associated Press that the rebel forces had taken the city, the capital of North Kivu province bordering Rwanda, and seized the international airport previously under control of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
The airport, closed to international travel since the 2002 volcano eruption, remains open for domestic flights and a passenger line to Uganda.
Since 2004, the area was the zone of an armed conflict between the DRC authorities and anti-government armed groups, allegedly supported by neighboring Rwanda.
The 23 March movement (M23) is comprised mainly of soldiers who mutinied from the DRC national army in April. It intensified its activities over the weekend, seizing the town of Kibumba, which is some 20 miles from Goma on Saturday.
The Congolese armed forces retreated as the rebels were armed with heavy weapons and supported by Rwandan troops.