Residents of the Nyamilima region in the eastern province of North Kivu said the army forces engaged in heavy fighting with gunmen, who were members of the Mai Mai militia.
According to informed sources, the army forces attacked the Mai Mai militants on Saturday at 8:30 am local time.
The army’s decision to attack the militia came after the arrest of a Mai Mai militant leader and subsequent threats from the group.
The army says it has succeeded in forcing the militia to leave the area and that the operations against the Mai Mai militants continue.
Thousands of refugees have fled to Uganda to escape a new flare-up of violence in the eastern Congo, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says.
The Mai Mai militia groups are indigenous to the region and insist that they are Congo’s true patriots. Since the 1990s, the Mai Mai fighters have forged and broken alliances with a variety of domestic and foreign government and guerilla groups in a country that has experienced interminable cycles of violence for nearly 15 years.
Several armed groups, including the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels, are also active in the eastern Congo and are fighting to gain control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used in manufacturing electronic devices, including cell phones.
Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.