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Hundreds flee DR Congo fighting, rebel leader detained

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Fighting between rival factions of Congolese rebel group M23 has sent hundreds of people, including many rebels, fleeing for neighbouring Rwanda, where the leader of one faction has been detained, Rwandan officials said Saturday.

Rwandan Foreign Minister and government spokeswoman Louise Mushikiwabo confirmed that 600 fighters were among the influx of people that crossed into her country late Friday and early Saturday.

"The soldiers and officers from DR Congo that have entered Rwanda have been disarmed and detained. Several wounded among them are receiving treatment with assistance from the Red Cross," she said.

The fighters include M23's ex-political leader Jean-Marie Runiga, whose faction has been fighting rivals loyal to the rebel group's military chief, Sultani Makenga, since March 9.

Runiga has reportedly been detained separately away from the Rwandan refugee camp for his own safety and has requested to go to Uganda.

Speaking to journalists in Rwanda on Saturday, Runiga said: "I am here because the situation on the ground has worsened.... I preferred to stay alive."

A Rwandan military spokesman said the army was "handling (the refugees) under the international law, we disarmed them upon arrival and separated the fighters from civilians."

M23's new political leader Bertrand Bisimwa meanwhile announced "an end to military operations" by the Makenga faction against Runiga's supporters.

Fighting between army mutineers M23 and Congolese forces in the eastern province of North Kivu has displaced 500,000 people since a resurgence in fighting in the troubled region in May last year, according to the UN refugee agency.

Over 25,000 Congolese entered Rwanda as a result of the renewed conflict in eastern DR Congo last year, according to the Rwandan government.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130316/hundreds-flee-dr-congo-fighting-rebel-leader-detained