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M23 rebels threaten to respond after DR Congo forces kill two commanders

The M23 rebel group in Eastern DR Congo has lost two commanders who were killed by government forces on January 16, in an attack the rebels called a violation of the existing ceasefire.

“The Kinshasa regime violated yet again the imposed ceasefire by attacking our forces on the front lines and carrying out acts of assassination behind our front lines, killing two of our commanders,” M23 spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The M23 has understood the message sent to it by the Kinshasa regime and will respond accordingly.”

Kanyuka did not disclose the names of two commanders reportedly killed by drone strikes on M23-held territory in Kitchanga locality, in North Kivu Province.

But unverified reports indicate that the killed rebel commanders are Col Castro Elise Mberabagabo, who was M23’s head of intelligence and external relations officer, and Col Erasto Bahati.

In the statement, Kanyuka said M23 had respected the ceasefire which was brokered by the United States government in December. Although the US said the two parties agreed to a ceasefire, M23 continued to accuse the DR Congo government-led coalition of indiscriminate bombing of populated areas in North Kivu.

Kanyuka said the M23 appreciated efforts by regional and international leaders to “resolve the ongoing conflict in eastern [DR Congo] peacefully by addressing the root causes of the conflicts.”

Kinshasa has refused to dialogue with the M23, calling the latter a terrorist movement.

Despite repeated calls for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, on Wednesday the Congolese army and a newly deployed force from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) announced joint offensives against the M23.

Eastern DR Congo, home to more than 130 armed groups, has been volatile for nearly 30 years.

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