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UN, Congo Prepare Offensive Against FDLR Rebels


FILE - UN peacekeepers record details of weapons recovered from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militants after their surrender in Kateku, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, May 30, 2014.

The United Nations says preparations are underway for an offensive against Rwandan rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Spokesman Stephan Dujarric says the U.N. mission in Congo (MONUSCO) has pre-positioned troops to support a planned U.N.-Congolese Army offensive against the FDLR, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which has been at the heart of years of conflict in Central Africa's Great Lakes region.

Dujarric, speaking in New York Monday, noted that a January 2 deadline set by African nations for the rebels to unconditionally surrender has expired, and that no significant numbers of fighters have turned themselves in since June.

The FDLR's members include Rwandan Hutu militants who took part in that country's 1994 genocide.

Attacks by the FDLR and other rebel groups operating in eastern Congo prompted the U.N. to create a unique "intervention brigade" for the region.

That force helped the Congolese Army defeat rebel group M23 in North Kivu province in November, 2013.

Dujarric says the U.N. also supported the Congolese Army in a battle with Ugandan ADF rebels in North Kivu on January 3. He said five rebels were killed and two others captured in the incident.

Strikes on Burundian rebels

According to reports by Reuters, earlier on Monday UN and Congolese troops launched strikes against remnants of a Burundian rebel group based in the rugged borderlands of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a U.N. military spokesman said.

The strikes targeted the National Liberation Forces (FNL), but a U.N. diplomat said they were mainly aimed at clearing the way for the FDLR offensive.

MONUSCO attack helicopters began bombarding positions held by the FNL near the village of Ruhoha in South Kivu province on Monday morning. The air assault was followed by a ground offensive by Congolese forces and members of a special U.N. intervention brigade mandated to take on armed groups.

The FNL is among several ethnic Hutu rebel groups that rose up to fight Burundi's Tutsi-led military government in a 1993-2005 civil war. Though it officially disarmed in 2009, pockets of FNL fighters remain in eastern Congo.

MONUSCO helped defeat Congo's most powerful armed group, the M23 insurgency, in 2013, then unleashed a military campaign against all remaining armed groups operating in the mineral-rich east of the country.

Burundi troops kill rebels from Congo

Officials in Burundi said Monday the army has killed 95 rebels who poured across the border from eastern Congo last week.

Two government soldiers were also killed.

Government forces captured nine of the rebels. The group to which they belong and the reason for their attack are still unclear.

But one government spokesman says the gunmen were looking to set up a base with plans to disrupt Burundi's presidential and parliamentary elections later this year.

A number of armed groups hide in the forests of eastern Congo.

Portions of this report are from Reuters.