U.N. troops start military action against Congo's Rwandan rebels

KINSHASA Tue Dec 10, 2013 12:50pm EST

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KINSHASA (Reuters) - United Nations peacekeeping troops in Democratic Republic of Congo have launched operations against a Rwandan Hutu rebel militia operating along Congo's border with Rwanda, the U.N. commander said on Tuesday.

Defeating Rwandan FDLR insurgents, who have long been used as a pretext for intervention in Congo by neighboring Rwanda, is seen as the next step in ending decades of conflict along the veteran foes' shared border, weeks after the Congolese Tutsi-led M23 rebels were defeated.

General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz said on U.N.-backed Radio Okapi on Tuesday that his troops would attack the FDLR rebel forces in a bid to secure a road between the eastern Congolese towns of Kitchanga and Pinga.

"Everyone knows that the presence of armed groups along the border creates problems with the neighboring states," he said.

In November, U.N. soldiers in a newly formed intervention brigade with a robust mandate supported the Congolese army with artillery and attack helicopters in defeating the M23 rebellion, the most serious in Congo in the last decade.

The brigade, made up of troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi, will also lead operations against the FDLR, which has launched sporadic attacks in Rwanda in an attempt to destabilize Rwandan President Paul Kagame's government.

The FDLR, is a Hutu, anti-Kigali rebel group sprung from militias operating out of eastern Congo since fleeing the 1994 genocide of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus.

"We have already intensified patrols and observation along the border and we are planning operations against all rebel positions along the frontier," Dos Santos Cruz added.

At the start of December, the U.N. also unveiled surveillance drones that it will use to monitor the volatile border between Congo and its neighbors Rwanda and Uganda.

(Reporting by Pete Jones; Editing by David Lewis and Bate Felix, Ralph Boulton)

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