Rwandan police dismiss claim of rebel incursions on southern border

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwandan police denied on Wednesday that a militant group that says it aims to topple President Paul Kagame was behind attacks along the country’s southern border with Burundi.

In June, unidentified assailants attacked and killed two people in the southern area of Nyabimata, where authorities said two similar attacks took place in July.

Callixte Nsabimana Sankara, a spokesman for a new political party calling itself Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), said on Monday in South Africa that it had started an armed struggle to oust long-serving Kagame.

Sankara is an ex-member of exiled opposition group Rwanda National Congress, founded by former Kagame aides who fell out with him.

The MRCD said on Sunday its military wing had been fighting with the Rwandan army in Nyungwe forest for a month and claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Rwandan authorities including the minister of local government and chief of police visited the attacked area on Tuesday.

Police said on Wednesday the violence was caused by intruders.

“We don’t have any security problem in Rwanda. The fact that there is someone from nowhere claiming that he was part of the violence in Nyabimata is fine for us in terms of justice,” police spokesman Theos Badege said.

Badege said two more small attacks were carried out in July but “didn’t affect national security.”

“We have security. They attacked and looted animals and food but as Sankara claimed responsibility he is going to be part of investigation.”

Reuters was not independently able to verify Sankara’s claim and calls to the army spokesman went unanswered.

Badege declined to comment on whether a military operation was under way around Nyungwe Forest.

But residents told Reuters the army had beefed up security in the area.

“There are many soldiers and heavy weaponry including tanks along the buffer strip of the Nyungwe forest and local security people have increased their patrols. People are scared,” said one resident in Kivu, adding that unknown gunmen had attacked the area late on Friday.

Authorities had asked people to remain calm and help security forces identify any wrongdoers, the resident said.

Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Omar Mohammed and John Stonestreet