Congolese troops were Sunday facing an offensive by DR Congo rebels in the eastern province of South Kivu, military and civilian sources said.
The sources said the troops were up against a disparate coalition of Yakutumba rebels loyal to a former army general opposed to President Joseph Kabila as well as Malaika (“angel”) allies.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the rebels had taken three villages in Fizi, a region in the south of the mineral rich province prone to ethnic tensions.
An army spokesman confirmed to AFP the army had engaged the rebels.
In February the military said they had wiped out the Yakutumba with help from neighbouring Burundi, where some of their number had taken refuge.
In September of last year the Yakutumba attacked the town of Uvira on Lake Tanganyika opposite the Burundian capital Bujumbura. UN Monusco forces pushed them backed with Congolese support.
Congo watchers note that the area of South Kivu between Fizi and Baraka was the cradle of the rebellion by Laurent-Desire Kabila, father of the current president, who ousted Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997.
The unrest is another front in the push by rebels to oust Kabila’s regime as the poverty-stricken DR Congo limps towards a much-delayed presidential election slated for December 23.
The former Belgian colony has not seen a peaceful transition of power since 1960.