GOMA, Congo (AP) — A group of rebels bombed a displacement camp in eastern Congo’s North Kivu province killing three civilians and injuring eight others, a local civil society group said Tuesday, as violence in the conflict-hit region sparked protests and a humanitarian group warned that thousands are facing limited access to aid.
A rebel group with alleged links to neighboring Rwanda, bombed the Zaina camp on Monday, which is 16 miles from the city of Goma, civil society leader Wete Mwami Yenga, said. The bombing followed days of attacks not far away from the city.
The M23 rebels did not claim responsibility for the attack but appeared to confirm Tuesday that they were heading to the town of Sake which is near Goma. Congo's government and United Nations experts have said the M23 group receives military support from Rwanda, although the country denies it.
“The M23 is coming to liberate them and protect them from those heavy artillery,” the group's spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka said in a statement, referring to their ongoing fighting with Congolese security forces.
Thousands have fled their homes into Goma in recent days as the fighting intensifies and hospitals in the city are filled with injured civilians, many of them with limited medical care.
“That I’m lying on this hospital bed does me a disservice,” said Ushindi Soleil, an injured father of ten receiving treatment in one of the hospitals. “I have ten kids, they are suffering,” said Soleil.
More than one million people have been displaced by the conflict since November, the Mercy Corps aid group said Tuesday. That adds to the 6.9 million who already fled their homes in one of the world's biggest humanitarian crises.
The group warned that major routes around Goma have also been cut off by gunfire and the sounds of artillery. “Aid agencies are now grappling with daily decisions on where and when it is safe to provide assistance amid reports of aid workers getting caught in the crossfire,” said Emilie Vonck, Mercy Corps' country director in Congo.
Angered by the conflict, hundreds of people held protests in Congo's capital, Kinshasa, on Monday, targeting foreign embassies whom they accuse of not supporting the country to end the violence.
The U.N.'s top official in Congo, Bintou Keita, condemned the protests as “unacceptable.” The U.N. peacekeepers which the Congolese government has deemed ineffective in the country, meanwhile, continue to leave the country ahead of a December deadline.
On her hospital bed in Goma, Feza Bongongwa, a pregnant woman wounded last week in one of the attacks, pleaded for an end to the conflict.
“The most important thing is to help us end this war," said Bongongwa. “M23 is making us suffer.”
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