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DRC Says Rwanda Threatens Attack


The Democratic Republic of the Congo is accusing the military of neighboring Rwanda of participating in attacks on its forces in eastern Congo in recent days, and of preparing a larger assault. Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi.

Since late August, rebel forces belonging to former Congolese general Laurent Nkunda have been battling government forces in the country's eastern provinces of North and South Kivu.
The two sides signed a ceasefire in January, but in the past month-and-a-half, renewed fighting has driven about 100,000 people from their homes in the area. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo says the number of dead could be in the hundreds.

In the most recent clashes, Nkunda's National Congress for the Defense of the People captured a government base Wednesday at Rumangabo, 45 kilometers north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province.

A spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo, Jean-Paul Dietrich, said there was fighting in a number of locations.

"In Rumangabo we had the headquarters of the integrated brigade and it seems that during this fighting some CNDP could get a lot of weaponry left behind from the army. The army forces evacuated the people to Rutchuru, so about 1,500 to 2,000 soldiers and their families have reached Rutchuru, which is the capital of this district yesterday [Wednesday] evening," he said.

He said the government reported that several dozen of its soldiers were wounded or killed in the attack. Rwanda's pro-government New Times newspaper reported that 100 Congolese troops were killed.

Dietrich also said that U.N. peacekeepers dispatched helicopters to one of the battle sites after one of their vehicles came under fire. He said the two sides had reached tentative agreement on a ceasefire in the area and that the area was calm on Thursday.

The latest clashes have heightened tensions between the governments of the DRC and Rwanda.

Earlier in the week, Rwanda's foreign minister expressed concern that the Congolese military was cooperating with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a rebel group operating in Eastern Congo. Many of the groups fighters are Rwandan Hutus suspected of involvement in the country's 1994 genocide.

The DRC accuses Rwanda of backing Nkunda's rebels, who say they are protecting ethnic Tutsis in Eastern Congo from attacks by Hutu militias.

Wednesday, the DRC's U.N. envoy said members of Rwanda's military were involved in the attack in Eastern Congo, and said that Rwandan troops were gathering in the town of Gisenyi in anticipation of an attack on the town of Goma across the border. That charge has been echoed by other Congolese officials.

Rwanda has denied involvement in this week's fighting, or that it is planning any cross-border attacks. The U.N. peacekeeping mission said it is looking into the allegations.

Rwanda's military has launched incursions into Congo on previous occasions, helping to overthrow the government of Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 and playing an active role in the ensuing civil war in the Congo that lasted from 1998 to 2003.

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