Fierce Clashes Between UN Peacekeepers, Uganda Rebels In DR Congo

The United Nations' MONUSCO peacekeeping force patrol North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in May 2015. By Kudra Maliro (AFP/File)

Kinshasa (AFP) - Fierce fighting between UN peacekeepers and Ugandan rebels raged in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, after a weekend attack by the mostly Muslim group left 24 people dead.

UN General Jean Baillaud, acting commander of the UN's MONUSCO force, told AFP the peacekeepers had tracked down the rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and attacked them at dawn using combat helicopters.

"We followed the trail of the ADF who attacked the town of Eringeti on Sunday," he said, adding that "operations were still ongoing at 13:30 (1130GMT)."

The general said the fighting took place in the north of Nord-Kivu province, a few kilometres (miles) southeast of Eringeti "in a marshy area where all the population had left."

Eringeti was attacked on Sunday by ADF rebels on several fronts.

The rebels withdrew after several hours of fighting with government and UN forces.

MONUSCO said 24 people were killed, including a UN peacekeeper from Malawi and 12 rebels.

The mostly Muslim rebels, who have been active in the forested region since being driven out of their homeland in 1995, are accused of a series of killings which have claimed the lives of more than 450 civilians since October 2014.

In December that year, Congolese and UN troops launched a joint operation that helped to restore a degree of calm to the region, but the killings did not stop and spread northwards.

The ADF, which first emerged in Uganda with the aim of toppling President Yoweri Museveni and setting up a hardline Islamist state, is accused of numerous serious violations of human rights.

Its leader Jamil Mukulu was arrested in Tanzania in April and extradited to Uganda in July.

The rebels also engage in a profitable illegal traffic in prized tropical timber.

MONUSCO -- the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Congo -- comprises about 20,000 uniformed personnel overseeing the disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation and reintegration programme for rebel groups.

Source: AFP
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