Violence erupts between army and rebels in DR Congo

Soldiers of the Democratic Republic of Congo regular army patrol in Kimbumba, 5kms from the border with Rwanda, on June 13, 2014 (AFP Photo/Junior D. Kannah) (AFP/File)

Goma (DR Congo) (AFP) - Violent clashes have erupted between the army and a militia in eastern DR Congo, forcing many civilians to flee their homes, officials said Thursday.

Government forces have been fighting rebels of the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) in the Masisi territory west of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

"The rebels attacked last night," an army officer told AFP from the front line.

"We have already managed to push them back. We will continue to chase them until we have cornered them all."

The number of casualties remained unclear but government officials told AFP one child had been killed.

Emmanuel Balume, a resident of Nyabiondo village in North Kivu, described the situation as "very serious". He told AFP that "bombs" had been dropped overnight, and that people were seeking refuge at the UN base in Goma.

The chief of Nyabiondo, Abraham Wetewabo, also said residents were packing their belongings and hastily leaving the area.

But local government official Sukisa Nayambaje insisted people had begun to return to their homes as the army was regaining control of the situation.

Fighting in the area first broke out over the weekend.

The APCL, led by former army general Janvier Buingo Karairi, is one of the many armed groups battling for control of the mineral-rich region.

Tens of thousands of people died and more than 100,000 fled their homes during clashes between the APCLS and army forces in February and March 2013, according to the UN.