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Congo M23 militia fighters seek refuge in Rwanda

AFP FILE PHOTO: Members of the Democratic Republic of Congo rebel group M23 sit at the Ramwanja refugee settlement December, 2014. About 1,000 former fighters are expected to arrive at the settlement after breaking out from a camp in Bihanga, about 300 kms (190 miles) southwest of the Ugandan capital Kampala, where they were being held as soldiers were trying to repatriate them.

Kigali, Rwanda | AFP | 

Thirty individuals claiming to be members of a Congolese militia group have sought refuge in neighbouring Rwanda, saying they were fleeing a Congo army offensive, the Rwandan government said Monday.

The fighters were unarmed when they were apprehended after crossing the border near the Rubavu district on Sunday, Rwanda’s defence ministry said.

M23 is a mostly ethnic Tutsi rebel group that mutinied against the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012, saying a peace accord signed in 2009 had not been respected by the government.

The militia was defeated the following year, and hundreds of fighters fled the country.

The Congolese armed forces (FARDC) refused to comment on any offensive in the country’s east, but a military source told AFP that two army helicopters crashed on Friday near Rutshuru, close to the Rwandan border, during an operation against M23 fighters.

On Monday morning, a memorial ceremony was held in Goma, a city near the border with Rwanda, for an officer killed in one of the crashes, an AFP correspondent reported.

A United Nations source said its MONUSCO peacekeeping mission did not participate in the offensive.

Earlier this month, Uganda said that 40 M23 rebels that had been quartered at a military base since 2014 had disappeared, and that about 100 more had been caught trying to cross into DR Congo.

The Congolese government, for its part, said this month that some 200 former M23 fighters had occupied a village in North Kivu province, of which Goma is the capital.

 

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