There was fresh fighting on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, a day after the two countries accused each other’s armies of mounting cross-border raids.
Rwandan and Congolese troops traded heavy weapons fire around 0600 GMT, according to a witness.
"There were heavy arms fire explosions, rockets," the resident told AFP on condition of anonymity.
A senior Congolese military officer said that Rwandan troops "attacked our positions."
Rwandan journalist Fred Mwasa, who said he was reporting from Rwanda’s northwest where the fighting occurred, also said on Twitter that shots were fired but blamed Congolese troops.
“Currently heading to location of ongoing indiscriminate firing into Rwanda by DRC soldiers,” he wrote, before saying it had already halted.
A Rwandan military source, speaking anonymously, told AFP that there had "not been serious clashes" but that had been "sporadic firings" of heavy weapons.
Rwanda said its forces had killed five DRC troops on Wednesday after they crossed the border and opened fire on a Rwanda Defense Force patrol.
The DRC government, though, blamed the skirmish on its neighbour, saying it began after Rwandan troops first entered Congolese territory and seized a soldier.
The two countries have long been at odds. Rwanda backed Congolese rebels during two wars in Congo from 1996 until Rwandan troops officially withdrew from DRC in 2003.
Since then, Kinshasa and UN experts have repeatedly accused Kigali of backing a rebellion by the M23 rebel group that temporarily seized control of parts of eastern DRC.
Rwanda denies the charges and says Congo is harbouring elements of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) Hutu militia that took part in the 1994 genocide, killing at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The border region has been relatively calm in recent months, however, following the defeat of M23 and the signing of a peace deal in December.
There are fears that the latest violence could undermine international efforts to bring stability to the DRC's lawless east after years of bloody conflict.
The conflict is fuelled by the east's wealth of mineral reserves – particularly gold and minerals used in electronic products.
Western officials sought to play down the escalating rhetoric on Wednesday, as Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the country stood "ready to act to protect its citizens" against further attacks.
"We are in contact with both governments and are trying to understand exactly what happened...This is to reduce the tension," a senior United Nations official told AFP.
A Western military source said no troops had been moved, and the tensions were "localised".
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-06-12