Congolese Exodus Begins as Rebels Reach Key City

By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 29, 2008 8:45 PM CDT
Congolese soldiers flee on motorbikes as thousands of displaced people stream into Goma in eastern Congo, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008.   (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)
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(Newser) – The strategic Congolese city of Goma descended into chaos today, raising the likelihood of a bloody regional war. Government soldiers commandeered cars, taxis, and motorbikes in a retreat from advancing rebels, joining tens of thousands of terrified refugees struggling to stay ahead of the violence. Tutsi rebels said they had reached the outskirts of Goma—an important staging ground for UN relief efforts—and declared a cease-fire to prevent panic.

Congo said Rwandan troops had crossed the border and attacked its soldiers—raising the specter that neighboring nations will again be drawn into Congo's war. Rwanda's Tutsi-led government denied the charge, but Congo turned to Angola for help defending its territory. As the chaos mounted, the US said its officials were leaving Goma and urged all American citizens to do the same.