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Minister: Rwandan Soldiers Have Entered Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo's Minister for Regional Cooperation says Rwandan soldiers have entered Congo and attacked three villages in eastern Congo. There has been no independent confirmation of the attacks, but President Paul Kagame told the Rwandan parliament that the attack could have already begun.

After days of speculation, but lack of comment from the Congolese government, one of Kinshasa's ministers has said the Rwandan army has entered Congo and begun operations in the east of the country.

Congo's Minister For Regional Cooperation, Mbusa Nyamwisi, said Rwandan army soldiers entered Congo and, alongside pro-Kigali militiamen, attacked three villages, burning houses and killing several Congolese.

Speaking from eastern Congo, Mr. Nyamwisi said that the attacks were as bad as he had seen in the region and local tribal leaders and missionaries reported up to 6000 Rwandan soldiers and militiamen involved.

There has been no independent confirmation of the attacks, but U.N. humanitarian workers in eastern Congo said they had received reports of civilians on the move in the area, about 80 kilometers northwest of the border with Rwanda.

During the past week, Rwanda has repeatedly threatened to send its soldiers into Congo to target Hutu rebels Kigali believes are about to attack Rwanda.

Many of the Congo-based Rwandan Hutu rebels took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, killing 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus before being defeated and fleeing into eastern Congo.

Rwanda says that because the government in Kinshasa and the United Nations have failed to disarm the rebels, it would have to do it.

Meanwhile, Rwandan President Paul Kagame told his parliament in Kigali that the attack on the rebels in Congo could be taking place soon and he alluded that it may have already started.

There have been reports during the past week that the Rwandan army had deployed in Congo, but these reports were not confirmed, with the U.N. mission saying that it had stepped up patrols, but found no evidence of infiltration.

Rwanda's threats to intervene militarily in Congo have been criticized, with diplomats at the United Nations calling for dialogue to resolve the latest crisis.

Rwanda has invaded Congo twice, with the last invasion in 1998 being one of the causes of Congo's five-year war, which sucked in five other neighboring countries and killed about three million people.