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Tens of thousands flee Congo fighting

Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo after an army attack on Ugandan rebels. Some 40,000 people in eastern Congo have been forced to leave their homes over the past week as violence steps up along the border with Uganda.  Congo agreed with Uganda earlier this year to go after all armed groups in the east.

The latest fighting between Congo’s army and Ugandan rebel group the Allied Democratic Forces, or National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-Nalu) a rebel group trying to set up an Islamic state in Uganda, has left families scattered across the Beni region, in the north Kivu province . "People are fleeing into places south of the attacks − our best estimate is 40,000 people," Oxfam spokeswoman Ellie Kemp told Reuters news service, adding that whole villages have emptied as people seek shelter in schools and churches. She said that whole villages had been burned down and warned that the Congolese army is so badly run that any offensive is likely to include rape, extortion and other atrocities.

The Congolese army said it attacked the rebels in Eringite village in North Kivu province late on Wednesday. "We have killed 22 so far and captured four," said General Vainquer Mayala, who was in charge of the operation. "The fight will take time," he said, adding that three soldiers had been killed. He said that the army had seized assault rifles, grenades and rocket launchers from the rebels, of whom there may be as many as 600.

Fighting forcing people out of their homes is nothing new in Congo. About two million people have been uprooted within the country, and at least one-million others were forced out in 2009, according to United Nations figures. Even so, it is particularly worrying just how quickly the situation in Beni erupted, said UN spokesman Maurizio Giuliano: "That is the shocking thing. It has been happening last week. According to some sources it even happened in one single day. This is what is shocking because that particular territory hosted 10,000 internally displaced persons, which had been displaced over a couple of years. Therefore to get 20,000 internally displaced persons in one week is considerable," Mr Giuliano told Voice of America news.  The Allied Democratic Forces have been running since 1996 and was classed as a terrorist group by the United States after a string of bombings in Uganda.

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