The M23 rebels in the eastern DR Congo on Thursday (Oct. 26), launched a new offensive north of the provincial capital Goma, an AFP team observed, as fighting with pro-government armed groups continued further south.
The group which has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu province since 2021, is one of several militias holding sway over much of the region despite the presence of peacekeepers.
On Wednesday (Oct. 25) evening, mortar fire and rounds of automatic weapons were heard on the southern outskirts of the town of Bambo, some 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Goma.
At midday on Thursday (Oct. 26), shells hit the town centre and thousands of panic-stricken residents began running north to reach government-controlled areas.
“We are in Bambo which has just fallen, we are continuing to fight but there are lots of rebels in the city,” said a security source interviewed by telephone.
Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and militiamen were seen joining the population as they tried to escape the fighting.
“I don’t know where my husband and seven children are,” said Dusabe Ngurikiye, 37, who had hurriedly fled the town.
“When the bombs fell on the city, everyone fled in different directions. We don’t know where we’re going now, where are we going to sleep?,” said a group who had escaped 10 kilometres north of Bambo.