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A senior United Nations official has announced the beginning of a military operation by peacekeeping forces against Rwandan Hutu rebels occupying the Congo-Rwanda border.
Troops of the newly formed intervention brigade of the UN Mission for Stabilization of Congo (MONUSCO) will pursue and engage Rwandan rebels – known as the FDLR – and open a road between the eastern Congolese towns of Kitchanga and Pinga, said UN Commander General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz.“The operations are being carried out under the auspices of a vast plan against local and foreign armed groups active in the region,” he added.
The UN plan is also designed to remove the rebel presence from the border region and thereby eliminate the threat they posed to the Rwandan government, which had carried out cross-border raids in previous years.
The 19,000-member MONUSCO force will also provide support to the Congolese national army, FARDC, in combating Ugandan rebels.
The new brigade, which includes troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi, was used to defeat the M23 rebels in Congo earlier this year.
In September, M23 rebels began suffering a series of defeats as MONUSCO forces – assisting FARDC – managed to push the movement further north.
The M23 movement had since April threatened to attack the towns of Goma, Beni and Butembo in North-Kivu province. In July, M23 launched an offensive against Mutaho village in eastern Congo.
The rebel group, emerging in April 2012, seized control of Goma in December last year, but withdrew from the town 10 days later under the pressure of Great Lakes countries for a peaceful solution. They were eventually routed in November 2013.