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Government troops capture last DRC rebel stronghold

Oct. 31, 2013 at 7:45 AM   |   Comments

BUNAGANA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Government troops captured the last major rebel stronghold in the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said.

Following days of fighting, government troops Wednesday captured the M23 rebel stronghold of Bunagana on the Ugandan border, the latest town reclaimed in the army's recent advance, The New York Times reported.

The government's reclaiming of Bunagana is seen as a turning point in fighting that has brought instability to the eastern part of the African country, observers said.

Officials said the remaining rebel fighters hid in the hills or crossed into Uganda.

Soldiers shelled and fought rebels in Bunagana before the M23 retreated, then marched into the town amid celebrations, the Times said.

The rebel group's political leader, Bertrand Bisimwa, crossed from eastern DRC into Uganda Wednesday, but the Ugandan Army said he did not surrender.

"He was coming to make [a] contribution to peace talks," said Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, a spokesman for the Ugandan military.

The Ugandan capital of Kampala is the site of peace talks between the Congolese government and the M23. Those talks broke off last week and fighting resumed.

Ankunda said a Ugandan newspaper report that Bisimwa surrendered was wrong and peace talks were ongoing.

"The talks are still going on," he said. "They are in a meeting."

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