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November 3, 2008

Conflict in Congo, refugees on the move

In the eastern mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), a rebel army led by Laurent Nkunda - a former General of the DR Congo armed forces - recently launched attacks and captured territory after a peace treaty had failed with the government. Nkunda's forces are Tutsi rebels, fighting against the DR Congo government forces and U.N. peacekeeeping forces. The U.N. has over 17,000 troops in the Congo right now, but they are widely dispersed, and have been unable to fully protect civilians or even defend their own bases. Nkunda's rebels forced government soldiers to retreat from intense battles up to the edges of the provincial capital of Goma. The biggest losers in this conflict are the hundreds of thousands of civilians caught in the middle - forced to relocate repeatedly, many victims of looting, rape and murder by both advancing rebels and some government soldiers - looking to thinly-spread U.N. forces for help. The humanitarian crisis and threat of further regional destabilization, has made this conflict a top U.N. priority recently. (31 photos total)

A Congolese woman cries as she marches with thousands of Congolese people toward the provincial capital of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on October 29, 2008. Refugees began arriving shortly after violence started between Forces loyal to renegade Laurent Nkunda and the Congolese army. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images)

Internally Displaced People (IDPs) carry their belongings on a road leading away from the north-east Congolese town of Goma in the vicinity of the Nyirangong volcano on November 01, 2008. Some of the thousands of refugees who had fled the violence in clashes between the forces of rebel General Laurent Nkunda and the DR Congo armed forces started making their way back to displaced camps they have lived in for years and some others headed home. The population living in this area have been repeatedly forced to move from one place to the other as an armed conflict has endured in the region for years. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Congolese tanks and thousands of displaced people stream into Goma in eastern Congo, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008. Thousands of refugees started streaming into the eastern provincial capital of Goma in the afternoon, impeded by army tanks, trucks and jeeps pulling back from the battle front. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo) #

People throw stones at U.N. peacekeepers patrolling on a road in Kibati, about 25 km (16 miles) north of the provincial capital of Goma, DR Congo on October 28, 2008. U.N. peacekeepers prepared to evacuate around 50 foreign aid workers from a town in violence-ravaged eastern Congo on Tuesday with Tutsi rebels advancing towards it, officials said. (REUTERS/Stringer) #

A file photo taken on October 13, 2007 shows dissident general Laurent Nkunda taking a call at his mountain base in Kachanga, eastern Congo. Nkunda had called on all Congolese people to "stand up" to the national government, in a BBC radio interview aired on October 2, 2008. (AFP PHOTO / LIONEL HEALING) #

Soldiers of the Congolese army pass by a helmet and rest of used munition at Rumangabo base which was overrun by Forces loyal to renegade Laurent Nkunda, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the provincial capital of Goma after an intense battle, on October 11, 2008. The rebel forces withdrew from the army base. Democratic Republic of Congo officials this week alleged that Rwandan troops had aided Nkunda's forces to capture Rumangabo, and accused Kigali of planning to attack the provincial capital of Goma. Rwandan officials denied the charges. Renewed fighting broke out August 28 with government troops and Nkunda's CNDP violating a ceasefire reached under the Goma peace accord in January. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A soldier of the Congolese army stands inside a tent riddled with bullet holes after an intense battle at Rumangabo base, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the provincial capital of Goma, DR Congo on October 11, 2008. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images) #

The body of one of the rebels killed in a fight with the Congolese army lies dead in the Mulindi Mountains, near Tongo, 65 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital of Goma, DR Congo, on October 14, 2008. The Democratic Republic of Congo's east is being bled dry as Kinshasa and Rwanda refuse to bury the hatchet and marauding militias plunder its bountiful mineral wealth, analysts recently said. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images)#

A tank of the Congolese army fires over positions of forces loyal to rebel leader Laurent Nkunda in the Mulindi Mountains in Tongo, 65 kilometers north west of the provincial capital of Goma, on October 14, 2008. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Congolese woman carrying her belongings walks down a road near the Rumangabo base recently captured by rebels loyal to renegade Laurent Nkunda on October 11, 2008. The rebel forces later withdrew from the army base. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images) #

On October 17, 2008, in a village near Rumango base, fighters belonging to the National Congress for People's Defence (CNDP), under the direction of renegade General Laurent Nkunda, displayed ammunition used in a piece of artillery they took from the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) in an attack on Rumangabo just north of the Eastern Congolese town of Goma last week. A cease fire between government forces and rebels from General Laurent Nkunda broke down on August 28, 2008 when rebel forces clashed with Congolese army troops. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

A fighter from the National Congress for People's Defence (CNDP) holds his recently captured gun and ammunition during a parade on October 14, 2008 in a village near a base in Rumangabo just north of the Eastern Congolese town of Goma. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

A rebel fighter from the CNDP, leans on his rocket propelled grenade launcher as he stands overlooking a valley where the north-east Congolese town of Rutshuru is located in the North Kivu area some 75 km north of Goma on October 23, 2008. Ruthshuru was then under the control of the Congolese National Army. Rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo told AFP on October 26 they had captured a strategic camp in the east of the country from government forces, a claim confirmed by UN sources here. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

A boy passes in front of the MONUC camp near Kibumba Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp, about 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) north of the provincial capital of Goma, on October 27, 2008. Thousands of Congolese people fled to Goma from the Rugari town and from the Kibumba IDP camp after recent violence. DR Congo President Joseph Kabila named a new government of "combat and reconstruction" on Monday in a bid to pacify the giant central African country, shaken by an upsurge in rebel violence. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A U.N. peacekeeper from India on board a jeep passes by a Congolese woman on the road to Rutshuru, about 75 kilometers from the provincial capital of Goma, on October 16, 2008. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images) #

Uruguayan U.N. soldiers deploy to an observation post near the village of Kibati some 12 kilometers north of Goma in eastern Congo, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008. The U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo is stretched to the limit with an upsurge in fighting in the volatile east and needs more troops quickly, the top U.N. envoy to Congo, Alan Doss said Tuesday.(AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo) #

A U.N. peacekeeper from India stands guard upon the arrival of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner at the IDP camp in Kibati, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the provincial capital of Goma, on November 1, 2008. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A rain cloud opens up in the sky over a mountain volcano where Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda share borders on October 21, 2008. Thousands of Congolese nationals have fled their homes deep inside Congolese territory into an area that straddles the north-east border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the western part of Uganda in search for safety after rebel fighters from the National Congress for People's Defense (CNDP). Renewed clashes in eastern DR Congo since August 28 have displaced more than 100,000 people. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Internally Displaced People leave Kibati heading north from the city to their villages, Kibumba and Rugari, north of the provincial capital of Goma, Congo, on November 2, 2008. Several thousand people displaced in the fighting between rebels and government troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo began returning home Sunday as a ceasefire held, an AFP correspondent on the scene reported. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Congolese policeman (lower right) tries to stop people entering the Mercy Corps base where UNICEF and IMC (International Medical Corps) were distributing High nutrition cookies to children at at the IDP camp in Kibati, north of Goma, DR Congo, on November 1, 2008. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images) #

The crowd of refugees bursts through the gates of the Mercy Corps base next to a refugee camp on November 1, 2008 in the outskirts of Goma. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images) #

Congolese children look on in an IDP camp on November 2, 2008 outside of Goma, DR Congo. Tutsi rebel leader, General Laurent Nkunda forced thousands to flee their homes and refugee camps in Goma during a surge in fighting this week as conflict renewed in the DRC during the past two months. The U.N. Security Council met in an emergency session to address the deteriorating situation in the DRC on October 29, 2008 after the Congolese Army threatened to disband. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images) #

Internally Displaced People gather in a provisional IDP camp in Kibati, north of Goma, DR Congo on November 2, 2008. Thousands of displaced sought to return home Sunday in eastern DR Congo as a ceasefire held, but European diplomats warned that 1.6 million were at risk despite a rebel propaganda offensive that included a parade. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A boy stands on a hill overlooking a refugee camp in the outskirts of Goma in the North Kivu region of DR Congo on October 31, 2008. The UN said today it had credible reports of Congolese rebels looting and burning refugee camps, sparking a new exodus of 50,000 refugees in a widening humanitarian crisis. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Displaced people walk past the body of a Congolese government soldier as they return home, Friday, Oct. 31, 2008 near Kibumba some 40 kilometers north of Goma in eastern DR Congo. Thousands of war-weary refugees returned to the the road Friday, taking advantage of a rebel-called cease-fire to try to reach home beyond the front lines of this week's battles in eastern Congo.(AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo) #

A man covers the body of a 17 year-old student allegedly killed last night by a group of Congolese soldiers after they looted his house and asked him to carry the belongings into a van in the Katindo neighborhood of Goma, on October 30, 2008. Congolese rebels closed in on this strategic eastern city sparking chaos as government forces, residents and tens of thousands of refugees scrambled to leave. The UN Security Council late Wednesday slammed the rebel push toward the provincial capital and expressed alarm at reports of heavy weapons fire across DR Congo's border with Rwanda. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images) #

Displaced people scavenge for building material near Kibumba, north of Goma, DR Congo on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #

A baby looks up at his mother in an improvised hut at a refugee camp on November 1, 2008 in the outskirts of Goma, DR Congo. Tutsi rebel leader, General Laurent Nkunda has forced thousands to flee their homes and refugee camps in Goma during a surge in fighting recently. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images) #

Rebel General Laurent Nkunda (right) makes a point as he speaks with the international press on November 2, 2008 at a house in the north eastern Congolese town of Kitshoumba days after his army belonging to the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) pushed their way to the outskirts of Goma. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

A rebel loyal to Laurent Nkunda's movement is seen carrying a rocket propelled grenade launcher, near Rutshuru, 80 kilometers north of Goma in eastern DR Congo, Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008. Nkunda's fighters advanced to the doorstep of Goma Wednesday, forcing U.N. peacekeepers and the bedraggled army to retreat in tanks and commandeered civilian cars. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #

A man rests his arm on the head of a child as he and his family walk away from the north-east Congolese town of Goma near the Nyirangong volcano on November 01, 2008. Some of the thousands of refugees who had fled the violence in clashes between the forces of rebel General Laurent Nkunda and the DR Congo armed forces started making their way back to displaced camps they have lived in for years and some others headed home. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

 
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