Congolese soldiers have forced fighters from the main Burundian rebel force from their stronghold in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) near the two countries’ border, an army statement said on Monday.
Troops “dislodged and recovered the headquarters of the Burundi FNL rebels [National Forces of Liberation] after three days of intense fighting”, said Dieudonne Kasereka, the army’s South Kivu spokesman.
The FNL, led by Aloise Nzabampema, is considered to be the main Burundian rebel force active in eastern DRC.
The statement said soldiers had also fought members of the CNRD (National Resistance Council for Democracy), another group active in South Kivu.
Troops killed 27 rebels, seizing arms and ammunition, while three soldiers died in the fighting, with another four wounded, the statement said.
The army said the rebels were now fleeing toward the forests of Muranvia, Nyaburunda and Kashongo as well as the Nyanzale Rudaga valley.
In September, the DRC army launched a large-scale operation against three rebel groups active in the east – the FNL, the CNRD and Red Tabara. Several deadly cross-border raids into Burundi in September were claimed by the Red Tabara.
Early in October, DRC Foreign Minister Marie Tumba Nzeza visited Burundi for talks with President Evariste Ndayishimiye.
Burundi boycotted an October 7 regional security summit in Goma, the capital of DRC’s North Kivu province, preferring to discuss such issues directly with Kinshasa.
DRC’s relations with its eastern neighbours Rwanda and Burundi are complicated by the presence of both refugees and armed rebel groups inside its mineral-rich eastern territories.
All three countries have suffered from multiple conflicts over the past 30 years.