Gunfire erupts for second day on Rwanda, Congo border

by Reuters
Thursday, 12 June 2014 08:11 GMT

Soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) take a rest near the town of Kibumba at its border with Rwanda after fighting broke out in the Eastern Congo town, June 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

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KINSHASA/KIGALI, June 12 (Reuters) - Gunfire broke out on Thursday for a second day on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Congolese official said, after months of relative calm in the volatile region.

Congolese and Rwandan officials each accused the other's armies of mounting cross-border raids on Wednesday that prompted heavy fire between the two forces. Reports suggested the gunfire on Thursday morning was short-lived.

U.N.-backed Congolese troops crushed an uprising last year in eastern Congo, a mineral-rich area plagued by years of war.

"There were some shots fired but very few. It has already finished," Congo's North Kivu governor, Julien Paluku, said.

"The shots came from the Rwandan troops, our forces did not respond. They have clear instructions not to shoot unless the situation becomes very serious. We are not at war with Rwanda," he told Reuters by telephone.

Rwandan journalist Fred Mwasa, who said he was reporting from Rwanda's northwest where the fighting occurred, also said on Twitter that shots were fired but blamed Congolese troops.

"Currently heading to location of ongoing indiscriminate firing into Rwanda by DRC soldiers," he wrote, before saying it had already halted.

Rwandan officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the clashes that first erupted near the Congolese town of Kibumba, which lies in the border area.

"I appeal for calm from both sides and urge them to take immediate steps to re-establish security in the border area," Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. mission in Congo MONUSCO, said in a statement.

Rwandan troops have backed Congolese rebels during two wars in Congo since 1996 before Rwandan troops officially withdrew in 2003. Since then, Kinshasa and U.N. experts have repeatedly accused Kigali of backing Congolese rebels.

Rwanda denies the charges and says Congo is harbouring elements of the FDLR Hutu militia that took part in the 1994 genocide, killing at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. (Reporting by Pete Jones in Kinshasa and Jenny Clover in Kigali; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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