Rebel forces on Monday exchanged mortar and machine-gun fire with Democratic Republic of Congo troops protecting the strategic mineral-trading hub of Goma, after the government rejected a rebel demand for direct talks.
The fighting threatens United Nations troops based in Goma as well as diplomatic fallout for Rwanda, which has been under growing international pressure for its alleged support for the rebels. Rwanda has denied allegations from foreign governments and the U.N. that it is supporting the rebel group, called M23.
The fighting also threatens to engulf one of Africa's largest countries in another conflict. The Rwandan army on Monday warned the Democratic Republic of Congo to stop bombing its border regions as tensions between the two former war foes continue to escalate amid the rebel offensive in the restive eastern Congo. Brig. Joseph Nzabamwita, Rwanda's army spokesman, said Congolese troops bombed the Rwandan lakeside border town of Gisenyi on Monday, using T55 tanks and antiaircraft guns targeting densely populated civilian areas and the airport.