KIBATI, Congo – Congolese soldiers advanced toward rebel lines Saturday in renewed fighting that threatens a tenuous cease-fire around the eastern provincial capital Goma.
Renewed fighting erupted Friday, and by Saturday morning the army had moved more than half a mile north of Kibati into the no man's land the belligerents have left unpatrolled since the rebels called a cease-fire 10 days ago after routing the army. Kibati is about six miles north of Goma.
A half mile north of the soldiers, small groups of weary rebels trooped along the road. Half the houses in Kibati — a village flooded by more than 50,000 refugees last week — appeared deserted. Empty ammunition boxes and spent casings littered the road.
Thousands of people milled around a refugee camp in the area.
Thousands of others were on the move again Saturday. Some have been on the run for weeks, hefting bundles of belongings, children and goats as they try to keep ahead of the violence.
Nearer Goma, hundreds of soldiers stood guard along the road. Others could be seen through the fog that shrouded nearby hills.
Among them, Associated Press reporters saw Portuguese-speaking black soldiers Saturdays wearing green berets with pins in the shape of a map of Angola. As of Friday, chief U.N. envoy to Congo Alan Doss said he did not have direct independent confirmation that Angolan soldiers were in Congo.
U.N. spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg said people could be confused by Congolese army soldiers who lived in exile in Angola for years fighting for the separatist Katanga Tigers. She said she did not know why the soldiers' berets would have pins with a map of Angola.
The presence of Angolans in the volatile region could be seen as a provocation by neighboring Rwanda, raising tensions and fears that Congo's conflicts could again spill over its borders.
Congo asked Angola for support Oct. 29, as rebels led by renegade Tutsi Gen. Laurent Nkunda advanced toward Goma, on the border with Rwanda. The rebels declared the cease-fire as they reached the gates of Goma.