Tanzania on Wednesday appealed to authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help release its 21 nationals abducted late last month by Mai-Mai rebels in central African nation.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mindi Kasiga told state television the 21 Tanzanians and three Kenyans were driving trucks belonging to two Tanzania-registered companies when they were taken by the Mai-Mai, a "self-defense" militia made up of various ethnic groups that has clashed repeatedly with Congolese troops.
"They were kidnapped by Mai-Mai fighters on June 29 in Lulimba, in South Kivu province, while they were on their way to the Namoya gold mine in Maniema province," Kasiga said.
The Congolese army is fighting the Mai-Mai Yakotumba fighters in South Kivu. On Wednesday, the Congolese army said 12 people had been killed in clashes there.
The regional deputy army spokesman, Dieudonne Kasereka, said, "Our forces are progressing towards the final barrier."
This has raised alarm in Tanzania, which asked the Congolese government to take into account the presence of the kidnapped truckers as they continue with operations against the rebels.
This was not the first time Tanzanian drivers had gotten into trouble in the DRC. In September, Mai-Mai rebels burned four Tanzanian trucks and abducted eight drivers in South Kivu.