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DR Congo blames ex-rebel chief Ntaganda for clashes

By AFP

GOMA, DR Congo (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of Congo's government on Wednesday blamed ex-rebel leader Jean-Bosco Ntaganda for recent clashes between the army and forces loyal to the general in the east of the country.

"The Congolese government has asked me to communicate the following -- everything that is happening currently in the Masisi is under the responsibility of General Bosco Ntaganda and he should be sought for that," said Julien Paluku, governor of Nord-Kivu.

"If our units catch hold of him, he will have to answer for all his actions before Congolese jurisdictions," the governor said, adding that even if it takes "a war" to do so, "we will do it."

Ntaganda told AFP on Tuesday that he was "not involved in the clashes pitting the FARDC (regular army) against the soldiers who defected."

The Ntaganda-led National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebel group was integrated into the Congolese national army in 2009 following a peace deal.

Before it signed the deal, the CNDP fought government forces in the chronically-troubled Nord-Kivu and at one stage threatened to capture the regional capital Goma.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila has been under pressure to arrest Ntaganda, who was indicted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court in 2006 for using child soldiers.

But the government had countered that Ntaganda's cooperation was needed to stabilise the war-ravaged east.

In April, a group of several hundred CNDP loyalists, including roughly a dozen senior officers, defected, citing unpaid salaries and inhumane living conditions among other complaints.

Clashes have since broken out between the CNDP loyalists and the national army in Nord-Kivu.

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