Clashes in eastern Congo for second day--UN

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KINSHASA, Sep 25 (Reuters) Fighters loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda clashed with the Congolese army for a second day in volatile North Kivu province today, UN officials said.

Nkunda loyalists attacked government forces in the villages of Mure-Mure and nearby Karuba, around 30 km west of the provincial capital Goma, at around 6.20 a.m. (0950 IST).

The rebels broke an 18-day-old informal ceasefire on Monday, launching attacks on three different locations including Karuba and edging the troubled province, long a haven for both foreign and domestic rebel groups, closer to war.

A military spokesman for Congo's UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) told Reuters government troops had been trying to strengthen positions attacked on Monday when they came under fire.

''It was an attack by Nkunda on (Congolese soldiers) trying to reinforce Karuba,'' said Major Gabriel De Brosses.

Congolese army officials and Nkunda's representatives were not available for comment.

The two sides battled for nearly two weeks in late August and early September before MONUC brokered a ceasefire in the town of Sake, just 20 km west of Goma, on September 6.

Apart from a few isolated incidents in the days following the deal, both sides had respected the informal truce for nearly three weeks.

An estimated 300,000 people have fled fighting in ethnically mixed North Kivu since January, according to the United Nations.

REUTERS AE HT2234

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