Forty Burundian rebels have been killed in a joint offensive by the armies of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi in eastern DRC, a Congolese army spokesman said on Sunday.
The two armies “conducted a high-intensity offensive operation” against the Burundian Forces National Liberation (FNL) rebels, Lt. Mark Elongo-Kyondwa said in a statement.
The enemy “suffered heavy loss of men and equipment: 40 attackers neutralized (killed),” he said.
The two armies “repelled” the FNL “from all four hills overlooking the town of Nabombi”, believed to be the command post of the FNL’s self-proclaimed General Aloys Nzabampema, he added.
The Congolese army called on the local population to cooperate with regular forces and “young people to disassociate themselves from armed groups”, the statement quoted Congolese Major General Ramazani Fundi, commander of operations in the southern part of the province, as saying.
The FNL is an offshoot of Agathon Roussa’s former rebel group, now the main political opposition in Burundi.
Since August, Burundian soldiers charged with fighting armed groups have been officially present in the South Kivu region of DRC as part of the East African Community (EAC) force.
In June, the EAC decided to set up a regional force, made up of the Kenyan and Ugandan armies together with Congolese troops in North Kivu and Ituri, the South Sudanese army in Haut-Ule and the Burundians in South Kivu.
Kinshasa, which accuses Rwanda of actively supporting the M23 rebels in North Kivu, has refused to allow Kigali to participate in the force.
For nearly 30 years, eastern DRC has been plagued by violent armed groups, some local, others made up of militias from neighboring countries.