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KINSHASA (AFP) – At least 130 people have been killed, including 10 soldiers, in ongoing clashes between army forces and rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the government said Monday.

“Our forces have inflicted very heavy losses on the M23 fighters, 120 have been killed and 12 captured,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said, referring to fighting that broke out over the weekend.

Mende said that 10 soldiers had also died in the clashes, which erupted on Sunday in North Kivu province between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels.

UN soldiers did not intervene, Mende stressed.

“The toll from these skirmishes is not yet definitive but until now the army forces have responded with bravery and efficiency to this attack,” said Mende.

Army forces also managed to recapture previously rebel-held positions as they fled, said the spokesman.

Some 2,000 soldiers were reportedly deployed during the fighting but Mende declined to confirm this figure.

A heavily armed brigade of some 3,000 UN troops with more power to fight renegade forces than ever before has recently been dispatched to the region.

The troops, drawn in equal numbers from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania, are joining about 17,000 UN soldiers already deployed in the area with a limited mandate to protect civilians and themselves only.

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