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Congo rebels advance as regional leaders seek cease-fire

The war continues to expand in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with rebels vowing to extend the gains they've made in the east of the country as more civilians are forced to flee their homes.

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Refugees flee the town of Sake in Congo after the government failed to liberate the town from the M23 rebel movement.

Jerome Delay/AP

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As regional leaders talked peace in plush hotel rooms a country away, fighting between rebels and government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo's east rumbled on.

On Friday, civilians carrying meager bundles of their belongings continued to stream out of the town of Sake a day after the Congolese national Army and an allied local militia tried – and failed – to retake the town from the M23 rebels.

Where those fleeing can go is unclear. Already tens of thousands of people displaced by the swirl of fighting are struggling to survive in makeshift camps studding the stony countryside.

The rebels pushed on with their offensive, capturing towns and villages around the regional capital Goma – which they have controlled without challenge since seizing it from Congo's ragtag military on Tuesday. Buoyed by their victory the rebels said they were going much farther – Congo's capital Kinshasa, a thousand miles to the west.

The continuing advance comes despite a flurry of diplomatic efforts to end the fighting.

As Goma fell, the three men who are widely seen as having played a central role in creating the conflict – and could play the key role to end it – met for talks at a luxury hotel on the shores of lake Victoria outside Uganda's capital Kampala.

On the one side was Congo's beleaguered president Joseph Kabila – who had just seen his army melt away and angry protestors torch his party offices in several cities. On the other side was Rwandan President Paul Kagame – the man whose own defense minister is in de facto command of the M23 rebels, according to the UN and Congo.

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