UN Helicopters attacked by M23 rebels in the Congo
M23 rebels attack UN helicopters in eastern DRC
MONUSCO peacekeepers on joint patrol with FARDC troops (not seen) in Bunagana, North Kivu, DRC, while a UN helicopter hovers (file photo)
Sat Dec 29, 2012 3:17AM GMT
The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo says the March 23 (M23) rebels have opened fire on two of their helicopters in the east of the Central African state.
The UN mission (MONUSCO) said in a statement issued on Friday that the two helicopters were fired upon as they passed over the M23-controlled towns of Kibumba and Kanyamahoro on Wednesday night.
“This is the second time that UN helicopters have been deliberately targeted by M23 elements during the month of December 2012,” the statement said, adding that the helicopters are often used for medical evacuations.
The statement noted that any attack on MONUSCO helicopters “constitutes a war crime”.
“Those responsible for such acts will be prosecuted and brought to justice,” it said.
However, M23 spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Vianney Kazarama denied the claims about attacks on UN helicopters.
“We never attacked MONUSCO, we fired at helicopters from the FARDC (Congolese army), who were flying reconnaissance over M23 zones,” he was quoted as saying on Friday.
Peace talks between the DRC government and the M23 rebels were suspended on December 21, nearly two weeks after they began in the Ugandan capital Kampala.
Both sides, however, agreed to resume negotiations in January after the New Year holidays.
The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
Since early May, over 900,000 people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. Most of them have resettled in Congo, but tens of thousands have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on for over a decade and left over 5.5 million people dead.