The spike in violence could be related to the disputed recent elections, the UN says [EPA]

An increase in violence involving government troops and armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has forced 100,000 people from their homes since November, the UN refugee agency said.

The cause of the spike has not yet been established, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said, but it follows fraud-tainted elections in November.

Attacks between rival armed groups in North Kivu's Walikale and Masisi territories are thought to have left 22 dead and an unidentified number of women raped, according to the agency.

It said 35,000 had fled their homes to escape the violence,

Humanitarian officials who visited the affected areas last week found empty and burned villages, Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the UNHCR, said.

Clashes in Shabunda, in South Kivu, have meanwhile forced an estimated 70,000 from their homes since November.

The UNHCR said government troops, the Rwandan rebel group FDLR and local defence groups were behind the violence.

"We are trying to get a sense of what the reason is for this upsurge," Edwards said. "We are obviously in the aftermath of elections - it may be related to that."

Joseph Kabila, the president of DRC, fought off rigging accusations to secure a presidential second term following the November 28 polls.

The full results of legislative elections held the same day will be released later this month, the country's electoral commission said.

Source: Agencies