“Their bombs are falling on the population. If this continues there will be many losses among the population,” Nkunda said, referring to the government offensive.
Nkunda led a 2004 rebellion that he said was to protect Congo’s Tutsi minority in the east of the country, and he has accused the government of supporting Rwandan Hutu rebels – ethnic enemies of the Tutsi.
|Laurent Nkunda, right, says he will integrate his
forces with the national army’s [EPA]
The government had given him until October 19 to begin sending his troops back for integration into mixed army brigades.
The process was agreed in a January peace deal which fell apart in late August when the general’s forces deserted the units.
Nkunda said on Wednesday he was ready to send an initial 500 of his fighters to be progressively integrated into the mixed brigades.
General Vainqueur Mayala, the Congolese army’s top commander in the eastern province of North Kivu, said government forces had recaptured the villages of Karuba, Humure, and Ngungu from Nkuda’s forces.
There were mixed reports about the numbers of casualties in fighting since Monday when Nkuda said he was breaking the fragile ceasefire.
“On the ground, we saw around 20 bodies abandoned by the insurgents,” Mayala said.
When asked about earlier reports that more than 100 fighters had been killed, including 16 government soldiers, Mayala said no army troops had died in the operations.
In the recent fighting, artillery and small arms fire has forced hundreds of families from their homes, worsening a humanitarian crisis in North Kivu where about 370,000 people have fled fighting so far this year.
The Congolese government denies supporting the Rwandan Hutu rebels in North Kivu, who are accused of involvement in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered.