Zaire Rebels Roll On

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MUKINGITI, Zaire: Zairian rebels have claimed control of eastern Zaire's largest refugee camp, sending thousands heading for Rwanda and setting up what may be the final battle of the Zaire civil war. Many among the 170,000 residents of the Tingi-Tingi camp were Hutu militias who have been fighting rebels with arms shipped to them by the Zairian government. But with rebel leader Laurent Kabila's attack over the weekend, killers and innocents alike were scattered, and the rebels were converging on Kisangani for what could be the government's last stand. While the rebel claims are as yet unconfirmed, a U.N. World Food Program crew flew over the area Sunday and reported that the camp appeared empty. Rebel spokesman Mbuyi Tshikombo said from Tanzania that the rebel forces are now within 14 miles of Kisangani and predicted that the regional capital would fall within the week. As has been the case with each rebel assault on the hapless government troops, Kisangani's residents have little to expect in the way of an actual battle, and much to fear from their supposed defenders, notes TIME's Peter Graff: "The rebels will likely start by shelling the airport because most of the army will already be there, trying to escape." The rest, he said, "will likely follow their usual practice of rape, loot, pillage. For a city of half-million people, that will be a very big deal." The fall of Kisangani, says Graff, "would be by far the most dramatic development since the whole thing began four months ago. For the Zaire army, anybody who can even pretend to fight is in Kisangani. Once that falls, there's really nothing else."