Rebel fighters with the 23 March Movement (M23) have entered the city of Goma, a provincial capital in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has suffered mass upheaval over recent days due to the advance of the rebels and their clashes with national army troops, according to a UN spokesperson.
"The situation in and around Goma has reached a critical stage," added the spokesperson, Eduardo Del Buey. "The M23 military advances have continued despite the demands of the Security Council, the Secretary-General, the African Union and others including countries in the region, for the M23 to immediately stop their attacks."
Addressing a news briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, he added, "Reports indicate that the M23 has wounded civilians, continued abductions of children and women, destroyed and looted property, and intimidated journalists and those who have attempted to resist their control."
Del Buey noted that the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) is closely monitoring the situation, with its peacekeepers in control of Goma's airport, and conducing patrols.
"MONUSCO troops will remain actively present in Goma and will continue all efforts within their capabilities to protect civilians from imminent threat," the spokesperson said.
The M23 - composed of soldiers who mutinied from the DRC national army in April - launched new attacks over the weekend in North Kivu province, of which Goma is the capital, uprooting some 60,0000 civilians and prompting MONUSCO to deploy attack helicopters in aid of the national army, known by the French acronym FARDC.
Del Buey said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterates his strong condemnation of the M23's violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that have accompanied its military advance.
"The Secretary-General underlines that those who commit violations will be held responsible for their actions," he added.
Earlier Tuesday, UN humanitarian agencies expressed concern over the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected areas in eastern DRC, while the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, voiced concern over reported human rights violations against civilians there.