The Congolese army says that 32 were killed in fighting between soldiers and Mai Mai militiamen.

The rebels launched an assault early Wednesday on the town of Beni, 220 miles (350 kilometers) north of Goma.

Army spokesman Col. Olivier Hamuli said the assailants targeted a military center there. At least 24 militiamen were killed and three soldiers died including a lieutenant colonel.

He said five others who were awaiting transfer to a military training center also were killed.

Resident Jean Kambale said heavy gunfire had rocked the town since early Wednesday but that calm had returned by the afternoon.

Eastern Congo has been wracked by fighting since the end of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda and is home to a myriad of violent armed groups.