Congo blames Rwanda for attacks on Goma

Aug 23, 2013, 12:10 PM EDT
Kids look through the window of an Anglican church that was struck by mortars, wounding at least three according to one witness, in Goma, eastern Congo, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. Neighbors said at least five civilians were hit by mortar fire in Goma on Thursday during a second day of heavy fighting between government forces and M23 rebels to the north of the town. The violence marked the first reports of civilians being wounded inside the city since late May, and prompted the United Nations peacekeeping miss
(AP Photo/Joseph Kay)
GOMA, Congo (AP) — Congo's government accused Rwanda on Friday of supporting a rebel attack on Goma after mortar rounds killed a mother and her three children and damaged a church in the eastern Congo border city. South Africa announced the deployment of 1,345 troops.
 
The South African troops who South African President Jacob Zuma said Friday would remain in Congo over the next seven months are part of a United Nations "intervention brigade" authorized by the U.N. Security Council in March. The new unit has a mandate to fight rebel groups in eastern Congo, exercising more aggressive rules of engagement normally used by U.N. peacekeeping forces.
 
South African soldiers comprise about half of the troops in the brigade. The $40 million deployment started on June 13 and ends March 31, 2014, Zuma's office said.
 
Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said nearly a dozen mortar shells had fallen in different parts of Goma on Thursday. He said that one woman died with her three children, and nearly a dozen others were wounded. Congo maintains that most of the mortar fire came from the direction of neighboring Rwanda. Mende said the government is waiting for Rwanda to explain "these particularly serious facts."
 
One witness, Clement Sale, told The Associated Press that two of his nieces — ages 16 and 17 — were wounded, one seriously, when a mortar round fell on their house. One missile punched huge holes in the wall of an Anglican church in Goma.
 
Congo's government said Friday it had killed 17 rebels in the recent fighting.
 
Siphiwe Dlamini, a South African military spokesman, said his country's troops had not joined in the fighting, based on information he received Friday morning.
 
"We're working closely with the Tanzanians and none of our troops have been anywhere near engagement," he said in a telephone interview in South Africa. "The fighting is taking place not far from where we are."
 
A U.N. expert panel reported in June that Rwanda's support for M23 had declined in recent months, but Human Rights Watch said the rebels still receive training and supplies and was able to recruit in Rwanda. Rwanda has denied aiding the rebels.
 
Mineral-rich eastern Congo has been bloodied by fighting by various rebel groups and the Congolese military for decades.
 
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Mwanamilongo reported from Kinshasa, Congo. AP reporter Christopher Torchia in Johannesburg contributed to this report.
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