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Congo's military gives key towns in the east back to M23 rebels as part of peace negotiations

A Congolese army spokesman says troops have given key towns in the country's east to the M23 rebel groups to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing peace process.

Col. Olivier Hamuli said Sunday that the army had secured Rutshuru and Kiwanja on Friday from another rebel group that had taken control in the days after M23 split. Hamuli said the military has given the towns back to M23 rebels per a November agreement between the rebels and the government.

Following a split within the M23 this week, the armed group had to abandon the towns to reinforce elsewhere, allowing another group to enter.

The M23 is a rebellion allegedly backed by Rwanda and Uganda. After it took Goma in November, the rebels withdrew from the city to negotiate with the Congolese government.