RCD-Goma claims recapture of mineral-rich Mwenga from Mayi-Mayi

The Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) rebel movement on Friday claimed to have recaptured the mineral-rich town of Mwenga in South Kivu Province in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from a local Mayi-Mayi militia backed by Rwandan Hutu exiles.

"The fighting resulted in 13 deaths on the side of the RCD and many deaths among the enemy," said the RCD-Goma spokesman, Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanga.

According to Kisanga, Mwenga - a town surrounded by land rich in minerals such as coltan, tantalite and gold situated some 70 km southwest of Bukavu - had been under the control of the Mayi-Mayi/Hutu coalition ever since the official withdrawal of Rwandan government forces some two months ago.

For their part, the Mayi-Mayi confirmed the fighting but denied that they had lost control of Mwenga. "Fighting is continuing, with Rwandans based in Bukavu heading southwest [towards Mwenga]," Jerimoth Lukonga, a Mayi-Mayi representative in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, told IRIN.

An as-yet undetermined number of civilians have fled the fighting, and casualties remain unknown.