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Congo Seeks Extradition of Rebel Leader From Rwanda

The Democratic Republic of Congo has called for the extradition of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda who was arrested late Thursday in neighboring Rwanda.

Congo Information Minister Lambert Mende told reporters Saturday that his government is waiting to hear from the Rwandans regarding the extradition request.

Military officials say Nkunda, an ethnic Tutsi, was arrested late Thursday for resisting a joint military operation by Congolese and Rwandan forces. He was taken as he crossed the Congo border into Rwanda.

Congo has long accused Rwanda of backing Nkunda's rebels, a charge Rwanda denied.

Meanwhile, there are continued reports of fighting between Hutu militia forces and joint Congolese-Rwanda forces in eastern DRC. Officials with the joint operation say nine rebels were killed during fighting Friday and today.

Last week, Congo allowed several thousand Rwandan troops into the eastern part of the country to help Congolese forces hunt down and disarm Rwandan Hutu rebels.

The moves mark a high level of cooperation between the neighbors after years of suspicion and hostility.

The United States welcomed the arrest of Nkunda saying he has caused nothing but havoc for the people of the region. A State Department spokesman (Robert Wood) said it is also a good sign of cooperation between Rwanda and Congo.

Nkunda's rebels have clashed repeatedly with government forces in eastern Congo since the collapse of a peace deal last year.

Nkunda's men say they are fighting to protect local Tutsis against Rwandan Hutu rebels. Some of the Hutu rebels took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide before fleeing to neighboring Congo.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.