By Pete Jones
KINSHASA (Reuters) - At least 40 civilians have been killed in a rebel attack on a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials and civil society groups said.
Thomas D'Acquin, head of civil society in Congo's North Kivu province, said the attack by the ADF-NALU rebel group on Wednesday had destroyed many homes in Kamango, a village near the Ugandan border.
"The outcome of yesterday's attack is that there are 40 dead civilians," D'Acquin.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) emerged in the 1990s in opposition to the Ugandan government, allying itself with the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU). It was largely driven out of Uganda in the mid-2000s but has held out in Congo, stepping up its attacks this year.
Moussa Demba Diallo, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO), said two U.N. helicopters had bombarded ADF-NALU fighters on Wednesday.
"Following the helicopter attacks, the Congolese army was able to retake all the positions seized by the rebels at around 6.00 p.m. (1600 GMT)," he said.
Diallo said that nine Congolese soldiers and 10 rebels were killed in the fighting, with other wounded taken to the regional capital, Goma.
ADF-NALU has been blamed for a spate of recent attacks and kidnappings around the town of Beni in North Kivu, including the deaths of at least 21 civilians on December 14-15.
The rebel group is believed to number up to 1,400 fighters and has kidnapped about 300 Congolese civilians over the past year, according to a report by a U.N. Intervention Brigade charged with helping Congolese forces hunt down rebels.
With the Intervention Brigade's backing, Congo's army overran the most important insurgency in the east, M23, in early November. A peace deal was signed this month with the Tutsi-led group.
Jaribu Muliwavyo, a member of North Kivu's provincial assembly, told Reuters by telephone that some local sources suggested it was not ADF-NALU but remnants of the M23 rebel group which carried out the attack.
(Reporting by Pete Jones in Kinshasa and Chrispin Mvano in Goma; editing by David Evans)