KINSHASA: Five Congolese soldiers were killed in clashes with Rwandan troops yesterday, military and government officials said, as both sides traded blame for sparking the worst violence in months.
Machinegun fire broke out at dawn along the border after what the Congolese army said was the abduction of one of their soldiers by Rwandan troops who had crossed the border into the restive province of North Kivu.
The skirmishes later escalated, with Congolese military officials saying the sides had traded heavy weapons fire while locals reported “mortars and even rockets” being used through the afternoon.
A DR Congo government spokesman confirmed the abducted corporal had been killed and blamed Rwandan troops.
But Kigali hit back, accusing Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers of crossing the border into its territory and opening fire on Rwandan soldiers in bloody battles that left four more dead.
“On Wednesday ... a section of the DRC army crossed the border to Rwanda where they opened fired on a Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) patrol,” the government said in a statement. “The attacks in the morning were followed by a second attempt: a deployment of two FARDC (Congolese) platoons to Rwanda, which led to a new firefight that killed four FARDC soldiers.”
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the country stood “ready to act to protect its citizens” against further attacks.
Western officials sought to play down the escalating rhetoric between the two countries, which have been locked in a decades-long conflict. AFP