Conflicting reports are emerging from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo regarding an alleged alliance between Congo's army and outlaw Hutu and Mayi Mayi militias, aimed at purging a rebellion by dissident general Laurent Nkunda. Noel King has more in this report from Kigali.
A spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Congo said the United Nations is not aware of any evidence of cooperation between outlaw militias, including the Hutu FDLR, and Congo's armed forces.
Major Gabriel de Brosses spoke to VOA by phone from Kinshasa.
"We do not think such an alliance took place because the FDLR is one of the major problems that the DRC is facing. It is pretty unlikely to happen," de Brosses said.
The alleged alliance between Hutu and Mayi Mayi militias, known as the Front for the Liberation of North Kivu, was first reported by the BBC on Tuesday. Militia members told the BBC they were supporting Congo's weakened army to flush Laurent Nkunda's forces from the region.
If Congo's armed forces have aligned with the militias, it would be a sharp reversal of their stated policies. Congo has sworn to rid its vast eastern provinces of Hutu militias, which include in their ranks some of the perpetrators of neighboring Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
Major De Brosses said he could not rule out the possibility that some alliances had taken place at a local level. Confusion is rife in eastern Congo as a disorganized, demoralized national army and numerous militia groups lay claim to providing security in the region.
Nkunda broke ranks with the army in 2004, charging that Congo had failed to protect ethnic Tutsis in the region from Hutu militias.
Rene Abanzi, a spokesman for Nkunda, told VOA he has no doubt that the Congolese armed forces have enlisted the help of the FDLR militias.
"It is something that anyone can verify," Abanzi said. "We are taking prisoners from the FDLR. They are receiving ammunition. They are receiving uniforms. They are working together."
A spokesman for the Congolese army was not available for comment. But Congo has previously denied any affiliation with the militia groups.
The U.N. Mission in Congo is the largest in the world, and is comprised of 17,000 troops.
Congo was devastated by a 1998-2003 war, which pulled in seven neighboring nations and took about four-million lives, mostly from hunger and disease.