GOMA, DR Congo - Fighting resumed Friday between the army and rebels in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, both sides and the United Nations said, just days after the latest effort at peace talks fell apart.
Clashes took place some 25 kilometres (16 miles) to the north of Goma, a strategic city of one million people in the mineral-rich but volatile east, rebel spokesman Vianney Kazarama told AFP.
Each side accused the other of starting the fresh outbreak of fighting.
"The army attacked our positions at 4:00 am (0200 GMT)," insisted Kazarama. But Olivier Hamuli, spokesman for the army in the flashpoint province of North Kivu, said: "They attacked us."
A source from the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUSCO, said the rebels carried out the first attack.
"Fighting is ongoing. These are not skirmishes," said the source, who did not wish to be named.
UN soldiers have gone into action alongside Kinshasa's troops, according to an officer in the regular army. "We are supporting (them) with part" of a UN intervention brigade, the MONUSCO source confirmed.
"Helicopters are ready to lend support if necessary," the source added. "We saw UN helicopters. They were flying over Kibumba," an M23 stronghold under attack, a local human rights activist said, adding that civilians in the region were fleeing towards the border with Rwanda.
The UN Security Council in March approved the deployment of a special African force of up to some 3,000 troops, under MONUSCO command and led by a Tanzanian general, with an unprecedented offensive mandate to target rebel groups in DR Congo.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, but the MONUSCO officer said that shells had landed on Rwanda. He could not say where they came from, since both warring sides were close to the frontier.