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Rebels in Congo declare ceasefire

Onlookers gather around house damaged by overnight shelling Gomeastern Congo Thursday Aug. 29 2013. | AP Photo

Onlookers gather around a house damaged by overnight shelling in Goma, eastern Congo, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. | AP Photo

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KINSHASA, Congo — The leader of Congo’s M23 rebels say they are declaring a unilateral ceasefire and pulling out of the area that has seen the heaviest fighting in recent days in order to “give peace a chance,” as well as to allow an investigation into the shelling of civilian neighborhoods.

Reached by telephone Friday, M23 president Bertrand Bisimwa said his troops had already started retreating from Kanyaruchinya, a village just north of the provincial capital of Goma.

Created in 2012, the M23 rebels succeeded in seizing and briefly holding Goma last year. That prompted the United Nations to create a special intervention brigade, which has been pounding rebel positions for the past week. The announcement is the first indication that the weeklong offensive against the rebels might have turned a corner.

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