Rwandan forces have fired at a fighter jet from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that it said violated its airspace, prompting the Congolese government to accuse it of an act of war.
“A Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from the Democratic Republic of Congo violated for the third time Rwandan airspace,” over Rubavu district, near North Kivu capital Goma, Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo said in a statement on Tuesday.
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“Defensive measures were taken,” she said, adding, “Rwanda asks the DRC to stop this aggression.”
In December, Rwanda said another fighter jet from the DRC had briefly violated its airspace.
An unarmed Congolese warplane also briefly landed at a Rwandan airport in November while on a reconnaissance mission near the border, in what the DRC said was an accident.
The DRC denied Rwanda’s accusation that the jet had been in Rwandan airspace – the latest dispute between the two countries whose relationship has been strained by rebel violence.
“The Rwandan shots were directed towards a Congolese aircraft flying within Congolese territory,” Kinshasa said in a statement, confirming the plane had landed in Goma without suffering significant damage.
It described Rwanda’s move as a “deliberate act of aggression that amounts to an act of war” aimed at undermining a peace agreement to end an offensive by the M23 rebel group.
A video shared widely on Congolese social media showed a projectile shooting towards an airborne military plane, before exploding near the plane, which continued to fly. The video could not be immediately verified.
The DRC, United Nations experts and Western powers have accused Rwanda of backing the M23, which seized several towns and villages in the DRC in renewed fighting last year. Rwanda has denied any involvement.
Regional leaders brokered an agreement in November under which the Tutsi-led group was meant to withdraw from recently seized positions by January 15 as part of efforts to end the fighting that has displaced at least 450,000 people.
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said last week that the rebels had not fully withdrawn from those areas.
Meanwhile, new fighting erupted on Tuesday morning between Congolese government forces and M23 rebels in Masisi and Rutshuru near the town of Kitshanga, some 70km (43 miles) from Goma.