- United Nations peacekeepers have launched a massive attack using helicopters for a second successive day, to halt rebel advance in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The fighting started on Sunday when Laurent Nkunda's fighers from National Congress for the Defence of the People (NCDP) launched a major attack in eastern North Kivu province.
UN's largest peacekeeping mission, MONUC, increased its intervention in the conflict as tens of thousands of displaced civilians flocked to refugee camps and government soldiers abandoned their positions.
The clashes centred on Kibumba around 30 kilometres north of Goma, where UN aircraft fired on rebel positions, stalling their advance on the regional capital, and forcing them to retreat to higher ground.
According to local reports, a top aide to General Nkunda said rebels would take Goma, whose population has been swelled by refugees from the fighting, within three days, despite having their progress slowed by the UN attack.
Government officials said forces are blocking roads into Goma from the north, but had pulled out in disarray from a second position further north.
Meanwhile, Kinshasa government has accused neighbouring Rwanda of supporting general Nkunda, a charge Kigali has denied.
"General Nkunda's troops were backed by Rwandan tanks which are pounding our positions from border hill positions," a government official said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, announced that he had dispatched two of his senior aides to talk to all parties to the conflict. "First and foremost, the fighting must be stopped," Mr Ban said.
"And I am deeply concerned about the civilian casualties as well as increasing number of internally displaced persons," he added.
Mr Ban said he was already consulting with leaders of Congo and its neighbour Rwanda as well as European and African leaders to help resolve the conflict.
He said he was particularly worried about the situation in Goma in eastern part of the country, where even UN personnel have been attacked. "The situation in Goma is worrisome," he said.
Fighting that broke out between the two sides in August violating a January ceasefire treaty has displaced some 200,000 people, United Nations food aid agency has said.
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