‘‘We are fighting three kilometers from Goma, just past the airport. And our troops are strong enough to resist the rebels,’’ said Hamuli. ‘‘We won’t let the M23 march into our town,’’ he said. Asked if his troops were fleeing, he added: ‘‘These are false rumors. We are not going anywhere.’’
U.N. peacekeeping chief Ladsous said that the rebels were very well-equipped, including with night vision equipment allowing them to fight at night.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the resumption of hostilities by the M23 and called on the rebel group to ‘‘immediately cease its attacks and any further military advances’’ toward Goma, according to a statement released by Ban’s spokesperson on Saturday evening.
‘‘The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the devastating humanitarian consequences of the fighting that has led to the displacement of at least 60,000 people, many of whom are fleeing toward Goma,’’ the statement said. ‘‘The Secretary-General strongly condemns the grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the M23.’’
Ban added that the U.N. peacekeeping force in eastern Congo will ‘‘robustly implement its mandate’’ to protect civilians in Goma.
Reports by United Nations experts have accused Rwanda, as well as Uganda, of supporting the rebels. Both countries strongly deny any involvement and Uganda said if the charges continue it will pull its peacekeeping troops out of Somalia, where they are playing an important role in pushing out the Islamist extremist rebels.
The U.N. Security Council called for an immediate stop to the violence following a two-hour, closed-door emergency meeting on Saturday. The council said it would add sanctions against M23 rebel leaders and demanded that rebels immediately stop their advance toward Goma.
‘‘We must stop the M23’’ because Goma’s fall ‘‘would, inevitably, turn into a humanitarian crisis,’’ said France’s U.N. Ambassador, Gerard Araud. He added that U.N. officials would decide in the coming days which M23 leaders to target for additional sanctions.
Associated Press writers Maria Sanminiatelli at the United Nations and Rukmini Callimachi in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.