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Troops from the Burundi National Defense Forces deployed under the East African Community Regional Force took over three villages Thursday that had been occupied by M23 rebels. 

Eastern DR Congo army spokesman Lt. Colonel Mak Hazukay told Anadolu that the villages include Karuba, Mushaki and Kirolirwe. 

He said other areas that are being vacated by the M23 include Sabinyo, Bigega, Bugusa, Nyabikona, Mbuzi, Rutsiro and Nkokwe.

The withdrawal of the rebels is in compliance with a communique of the East Africa Community Heads of State mini-summit held on Feb. 17 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia marking a significant milestone in the ongoing phased withdrawal.

A joint bureau comprising the Ad Hoc Verification Mechanism (AVM), East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) and East Africa Community Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (EACMVM) verified the M23’s withdrawal and observance of the cease-fire since Wednesday, marking a very significant milestone towards restoring peace and stability in eastern DRC.

The M23 rebel group, which was formed in 2012 by disgruntled Congolese militants who wanted to be enlisted in the national army, has often attacked areas in eastern DR Congo but had always been repulsed. In June last year, they attacked areas in eastern DR Congo and occupied them until recently, when peace talks compelled them to leave. - Godfrey Olukya, Anadolu Agency

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