GOMA, Congo (AP) — Six people were killed this week in shootouts linked to the Congolese army in Goma, eastern Congo, say local authorities.
"There are a lot soldiers in the area at the moment and it is creating problems," said Naasson Kubuya Ndoole, Goma's mayor. "We have to manage them."
Since the beginning of May, the Congolese army has been fighting a new group of rebels called M23 in the Rutshuru territory, north of Goma. The M23 are largely Congolese Tutsi who defected from the army and are now fighting against both the army and Rwandan Hutu rebels for control of the mineral-rich eastern part of Congo.
Congo President Joseph Kabila has sent thousands of troops to reinforce the Congolese army forces fighting the M23 rebels.
But in July, the rebels gained ground and the Congolese army's lines were pushed back to Kibumba, 30 kilometers (18 miles) away from Goma, the provincial capital.
Despite all the troops deployed around Goma, insecurity has increased. Many blame the undisciplined Congo army troops.
"Every night since the end of July we hear gunfire in this quarter of town", says Passy Nabintu who lives in Virunga, a neighborhood in northern Goma.
In the past week several people were killed, spreading fear throughout the city.
Local authorities have instructed people to stay home after dark and the usually lively streets of Goma have become eerily quiet after 7 p.m.
The most recent killing was Friday night at about 10 p.m. near Goma's border with Rwanda, according to police.
On Monday, a shootout killed three people including a captain of the presidential guard, an elite unit of the Congolese army reputed for its ruthlessness.
The following day, other soldiers from the presidential guard started shooting in the air at night to show their anger at their comrade's death, terrorizing residents of several quarters.
"We don't dare go out at night anymore," says Faïda Kakule, a shopkeeper in the Mabanga quarter.
The Congolese army spokesperson, colonel Oliver Hamuli, says two presidential guards have been arrested in relation to the incident. According to him, soldiers are not responsible for the rising insecurity.
"It is only an upsurge in ordinary crime," he asserted. "The police must move to arrest the criminals and reestablish order."
Rumors have been circulating in Goma that the increasing number of attacks is part of a campaign by the M23 to destabilize Goma and the army's hold on the key city. But local authorities say it has nothing to with the rebellion.
"It is an internal problem. It has nothing to do with the M23", said Goma's mayor Naasson Kubuya Ndoole.
On Thursday, two other people were shot to death. One man died after he was hit by seven bullets because he refused to give his mobile phone to unknown armed men. After murdering him, his assailants left his body lying on the street without taking his phone, said residents.