KINSHASA, Congo (AP) -- A civil society leader says rebels have seized the strategic village of Jomba in east Congo thus cutting access to a border crossing into Uganda and Rwanda. Congo's army denied that.
A statement from the Civil Society Coordination for North Kivu province, signed by vice president Omar Kavota, said residents have reported that M23 rebels attacked before dawn Thursday and fought army troops for four hours to dislodge them from the center that also has a large Catholic mission and school. It is the only major village on the road from Bunagana border post to the eastern town of Rutshuru.
But army spokesman Col. Celestin Ngeleka said the two sides had fought Wednesday about 10 kilometers (6 miles) outside Jomba and the soldiers had forced the rebels to retreat to their initial position.
The rebels deserted the army in April demanding stricter adherence to a 2009 peace accord. They hold some mountaintop villages near Rwanda's border.
A U.N. report says the rebels are led by renegade Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes, and backed by Rwanda - a charge Rwanda denies.