The UN has estimated that nearly seven million people had been displaced in DR Congo by the end of 2023. / Photo: Reuters

Troops went on the offensive on Wednesday against M23 rebel positions in DR Congo's east, the army announced, as residents reported fighting on several fronts in North Kivu province.

Backed by "wazalendo" or patriotic militia, the army "launched the offensives early this morning May 22," said FARDC spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Ndjike on X, formerly Twitter.

He said several localities had already been recaptured from the rebels, who are allegedly being supported by Rwandan soldiers, according to Western powers and the Democratic Republic of Congo's government.

Local people telephoned by AFP from the provincial capital Goma said fighting was underway on Masisi and Rutshuru territory, northwest of the provincial capital.

'Fighting since morning'

"There's been fighting since this morning," said a civil society representative in Bweremana, about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Goma.

"There's been bombing from Minova in the direction of (the hills of) Ndumba and Kabase, where fighting is raging," said a resident, asking not to be named, from the town of Minova, in the north of the neighbouring province of South Kivu, which has only recently been affected by the widening conflict.

The mainly Tutsi-led M23 resumed its armed campaign in DR Congo in 2021 and has seized swathes of territory, virtually encircling Goma.

At the end of April, the rebels captured the mining town of Rubaya, in North Kivu's Masisi territory.

Strategic minerals

The town's mines contain strategic minerals used in electronics, including coltan.

The UN estimated at the end of 2023 that nearly seven million people had been displaced in DR Congo, including 2.5 million in North Kivu alone.

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