Fighting continues to rage in the Democratic Republic of Congo despite M23 rebels calling for a ceasefire and international efforts to end the bloodshed.
Government troops on Monday drove the M23 from hilltop positions in the east of the country, where rebels were holed up after being forced from their last stronghold of Bunagana last week.
The army said the rebels had been bombing Bunagana and said it showed the ceasefire declaration of the M23 rebel group at the weekend was worthless.
“This is not fighting, it is bombs launched by M23 targeting the population of Bunagana,” said Colonel Olivier Hamuli, an army spokesman. “They are targeting civilians.”
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Bunagana, said that he had seen at least three bodies and that body parts scattered the road in the town. Soldiers on the scene said more had been killed.
“They were going about their daily tasks: preparing food, washing clothes,” said Webb, who heard another bomb fall on a nearby town. “Now (rthe town) is deserted, except for soldiers.”
Envoys monitoring the conflict for the UN, EU and African Union urged both sides on Monday not to undo progress made in peace talks, saying M23 should renounce its rebellion as agreed and the army should hold off from further military action for now.
The UN special force in the Democratic Republic of Congo said it fired mortar rounds at M23 rebels on Monday, in what appeared to be its first direct combat against the rebellion since a resumption of hostilities last month.
Bertrand Bisimwa, leader of M23 , said in a statement on Sunday that “all the forces of the Congolese revolutionary army” had been ordered to end hostilities with government troops.
Bisimwa said his aim was to “allow the continuation of the political process” with the DRC in a bid to end the insurgency plaguing the eastern region since April 2012.
A rapid army advance in the last few weeks has driven rebels from towns and cornered them in the steep, forested hills along the Ugandan border, raising the prospect of an end to a 20-month rebellion that has gripped Congo’s mineral-rich east.
Meanwhile, African leaders from the 15-country Southern Africa Development Communitry and some of DR Congo’s neighbours were due to meet late on Monday in South Africa to discuss the next steps for peace.
Several countries have contributed troops to a UN intervention brigade, designed to help Congo’s army force the M23 rebels into talks.