* Fighting resumes after brief lull
* Clashes test of new U.N. combat brigade
(Adds U.N. brigade helping Congo army)
By Kenny Katombe
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug 26 A
U.N. brigade tasked with neutralising armed groups in Congo has
assisted the country's army in clashes with eastern rebels on
Monday, ending a brief lull in days of fighting that has killed
and wounded dozens.
The violence, the most serious in months, is the first major
test for the newly deployed U.N. Intervention Brigade which has
an unprecedented mandate to launch military operations against
M23, one of the rebels at the heart of nearly two decades of
A senior officer with the brigade told Reuters that U.N.
peacekeepers were "assisting" the Congolese army in operations
against M23 rebels late on Monday.
"We are supporting the army in their operations but have not
ourselves engaged the rebels at this stage," the officer said by
telephone from Goma, requesting not to be identified.
The brigade has fought alongside Congo's army several times
since the latest fighting erupted on Wednesday.
The M23 rebels said they were targeted by air strikes and
came under heavy weapons fire on Monday afternoon.
"As usual, we expect that ground troops will come in the
wake of these bombings," M23 said in a statement. Congo's army
said rebels had attacked first and it was retaliating.
Congolese army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli said clashes
were taking place at Kibati, about 11 km (7 miles) north of
Goma, a city of a million people on the Rwandan border.
The rebels briefly seized Goma in November before
withdrawing and committing to Ugandan-hosted peace talks.
Negotiations have faltered and renewed fighting has exacerbated
tensions between Rwanda and Congo.
Several shells fell in Rwanda during clashes around Goma
last week, prompting Kigali to accuse Kinshasa of bombing it.
Congo denied the charge and accused Rwandan troops of backing
The cross-border accusations underscore the rebellion's
roots in a complex web of local politics and regional conflicts
over ethnicity, land and minerals. Rwandan troops fought in two
Congo wars but Kigali says it is not supporting the M23.
A doctor at a military hospital near Goma said he was
treating those wounded in "ferocious" fighting on Saturday.
"It is very chaotic and difficult to have precise numbers,
but we have had around 15 deaths so far. There have also been
150 injuries," the doctor said, asking not to be named.
The doctor and a U.N. official said the rebels, whose
positions were struck by U.N. attack helicopters on Saturday,
had lost many men in the fighting.
A rebel spokesman denied those reports. "How can we continue
to protect our territory while suffering the kinds of losses
they are saying? It is nonsense," said spokesman Colonel Vianney
The United Nations said three of its soldiers - two
Tanzanians and a South African - were injured on Saturday when a
shell landed near their position just north of Goma.
(Additional reporting by Pete Jones in Kinshasa and Peroshni
Govender in Johannesburg; Writing by David Lewis and Bate Felix;
Editing by Andrew Heavens and Mohammad Zargham)