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Rebel fighters in the DR Congo enter Goma, threatening wider conflict

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"MONUSCO is keeping its defensive positions. They do not have the mandate to fight the M23. Unfortunately, the M23 did not obey the MONUSCO warnings and went past their positions [at the airport]. We ask that the MONUSCO do more," he said.

According to Reuters, a senior UN source said Congolese troops evacuated Goma, and UN peacekeepers were unable to put up a defense.

"There is no Army left in the town, not a soul ... once they were in the town what could we do? It could have been very serious for the population," the Reuters source said, asking not to be named. Residents were ordered to evacuate, and refugee camps in the area were abandoned, Reuters reports.

"Despite the attack helicopters, despite the heavy weapons, the FARDC (Congo national Army) has let the town fall into our hands," Col. Vianney Kazarama, a spokesman for M23, told Reuters by telephone.

The Goma airport is a lifeline for the many aid organizations based there, as well as businesses.  The Congolese Army has denied claims that M23 rebels have taken over the airport, which sits across the street from the UN headquarters, reports The Daily Telegraph. “[T]here are fears that if Goma falls, rebel footsoldiers will go on a rampage of looting and rape, particularly if the UN continues to appear ineffective.”

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