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Congo cease-fire crumbles, 44 dead

GOMA, Congo — Forty-four people were killed in fighting between the Congolese Army and M23 rebels Thursday, ending a two-month cease-fire, said Congolese officials.

Each side blamed the other for starting the fighting.

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‘‘The M23 has attacked us around 5 a.m. this morning,’’ said Colonel Olivier Hamuli, who added the fighting against 700 rebels continued until about 3 p.m.

Forty-four M23 fighters were killed in the battle, the governor of North Kivu Province, Julien Paluku, said by phone.

But the M23 rebels charged the Congolese army initiated the hostilities. On Saturday, the political branch spokesman, Bertrand Bisimwa, accused the army of attacking the rebels in Kitagoma, near the Ugandan border.

However local sources say the attack in Kitagoma was carried out by an armed group allied with the M23 and the rebels are only looking for an excuse to start fighting again.

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