M23 rebels have seized swaths of eastern North Kivu province in the DRC in a swift offensive since May.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has condemned an offensive by M23 rebels in the east of the country that has forced 450 people, including women and children, to seek refuge around their base in the town of Kitshanga.
“M23 must cease all hostilities and withdraw from the occupied territories, in accordance with the plan set out at the mini-summit in Luanda,” the mission, known by the acronym MONUSCO, said on Twitter on Thursday.
The attack on Kitshang is a new offensive by rebels who have seized areas of the DRC’s eastern North Kivu province in a swift offensive since May that threatened the provincial capital of Gomi.
The armed uprising has inflamed regional tensions, with the DRC accusing neighboring Rwanda of supporting and sponsoring the Tutsi-led insurgency. United Nations and European Union experts have accused Rwanda of supporting M23.
The Rwandan government has denied any involvement.
Regional leaders brokered a deal in November that required the rebels to withdraw from newly-conquered positions by January 15 in an attempt to end fighting that has displaced at least 450,000 people.
But an internal UN report says the rebels are violating the ceasefire.
Two witnesses who fled Kitshanga and joined the crowd of refugees at the MONUSCO base said the rebels had taken control of the town.
A spokesman for the DRC government and the military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
M23 said in a statement that it was obliged to intervene to protect Tutsis in Kitshanga and other areas.