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Troops from the 124th battalion desert to join dissident general

GOMA, 12 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - The commander of the Democratic Republic of Congo's 8th Military Region, in the eastern province of North Kivu, said on Monday some 350 troops from the 124th battalion had defected to join a dissident army general, Laurent Nkunda.

"The soldiers, who are all Rwandophones, deserted their posts at Katale [50 km north of the provincial capital Goma] on Saturday and Sunday taking with them arms and ammunitions," Gen GabriŽl Amisi said

Amisi said Nkunda was now in Kichanga, some 75 km south of Goma, capital of North Kivu. Last week the government in Kinsahsa officially dismissed Nkunda and issued an international arrest warrant against him.

"Since Monday we have been deploying the 51st battalion at Katale which we are entrusting with the task of stemming these desertions," Amisi said.

The 51st battalion is part of the 5th brigade based in the district of Ituri, Orientale Province, north of North Kivu. It consists of combatants who were integrated just two weeks ago from two factions of the former rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie; former Mayi-Mayi militiamen and soldiers from the former government of Mobuto Sese Seko.

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