DR Congo military attacks last areas held by M23 rebels

M23 rebels in eastern DR Congo (December 2012)
Image caption M23 fighters have lost most of the territory they had captured

Government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo are attacking the last areas held by the M23 rebel group in the forested hills in the east.

Hundreds of refugees are fleeing the fighting close to Congo's eastern border and crossing into Uganda.

The M23 on Sunday called a ceasefire to allow peace talks with the government.

It follows a string of defeats by government troops, who have driven the rebels from all towns they once controlled during a 20-month rebellion.

In a statement, the M23 called on the organisers of the peace talks in neighbouring Uganda to "put in place a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire".

A government spokesman said the statement was "a step in the right direction" but that it was waiting to see if the ceasefire was being implemented.

"There is always a delay between the order being given and the reality on the ground," Lambert Mende was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"In any case the army will continue to pursue the demobilisation and disarmament of the rebels."

At least 800,000 people have been left homeless since the conflict started.

The M23 is made up of army deserters who say they are fighting for the rights of the minority Tutsi ethnic group.

'All but finished'

Last Monday the UN special envoy to DR Congo, Martin Kobler, said the group was all but finished as a military threat in DR Congo.

His comments came after government forces captured five rebel-held areas, including one where the rebels had a big military training camp.

Peace talks in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, broke down last month following two months of negotiations.

The government forces have been backed by a UN intervention brigade deployed earlier this year to confront the M23 and other armed groups.

The rebels briefly occupied the eastern Congolese city of Goma in November 2012 before pulling out under international pressure.

The M23 rebel movement is named after a 23 March 2009 peace deal that ended four years of rebellion in eastern DR Congo.