Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda have accused each other of firing rockets across their shared border, including a strike that killed two Congolese children, a spokesperson for the Congolese army said.
The alleged cross-border rocket attacks on Friday are part of an escalating dispute between the Central African neighbours, and are linked to a fresh offensive by the M23 rebel group that Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting.
“We recorded two children killed and one seriously wounded and also a school which was thoroughly damaged,” Congolese Army spokesperson Guillaume Ndjike Kaiko said on Friday.
The incident occurred as Congolese troops battled M23 rebels in a mountain area close to the border with Rwanda and Uganda when five rockets fired from Rwanda landed in Congolese territory, the spokesperson said.
Rwandan authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment and the Reuters news agency could not independently verify the reported rocket attack.
The Rwandan Defence Ministry also accused Congolese forces of firing two 122mm calibre rockets into Rwanda from the Bunagana area, where Congolese force were battling M23 rebels.
“There were no casualties but the local population is terrified,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
Kaiko denied that Congolese forces had used rockets of that calibre in the area.
On Wednesday, Congolese military officials accused Rwanda of deploying hundreds of special forces troops on its soil, while Kigali accused Congolese forces of shelling Rwandan territory on March 19 and May 23, causing casualties and damage to property.
“Rwanda has changed the uniform of its soldiers to conceal its presence in Congolese territory alongside the terrorists of M23,” Congolese army spokesperson in eastern North Kivu province, General Sylvain Ekenge, said.
The dispute between Kigali and Kinshasa centres on Congo’s accusation that Rwanda is actively supporting M23, which has been waging its most sustained offensive in Congo’s eastern borderlands since capturing vast swathes of territory in 2012-2013.
Rwanda denies this and in turn accuses Congo of fighting alongside the FDLR, an armed group run by ethnic Hutus who fled Rwanda after taking part in the 1994 genocide.
The United Nations said on Wednesday that M23 rebels had wounded three UN peacekeepers in the DRC’s North Kivu province.