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DR Congo Accuses Rwanda of Airport ‘Drone Attack’

DR Congo’s army on Saturday accused Rwanda of carrying out a night-time drone attack that damaged civilian aircraft at the airport in the strategic eastern city of Goma.

Fighting has flared in recent days around the town of Sake, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Goma, between M23 rebels — which Kinshasa says are backed by Kigali — and Congolese government forces.

The drones “targeted aircraft of DRC Armed Forces” in the early hours, said Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Ndjike, army spokesman for restive North Kivu province.

Army aircraft “were not hit,” he said, but “civilian aircraft were damaged,” in a video broadcast by the governorate.

The Rwandan government did not immediately respond to the allegations.

Security and government sources had told AFP of the bombing but had no details about where it came from or any damage caused.

A security source spoke of “two bombs” at the facility in Goma, the capital of North Kivu and home to one million people.

“Two experts are on site to check where the bombs were fired from,” the source said.

An AFP correspondent and Goma residents reported hearing two loud explosions.

Despite the bomb reports, national and international traffic was normal, sources at the airport said.

Several commercial, military and humanitarian flights took off or landed during the morning, according to Flight Radar website.

Escalating Violence

The UN Security Council voiced concern this week at “escalating violence” in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, condemning an offensive launched by the mainly Tutsi-led M23 rebels near Goma.

Dozens of soldiers and civilians have reportedly been killed or wounded in the fighting over the last 10 days.

The latest fighting has pushed tens of thousands of civilians to flee towards Goma, which stands between Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border and is practically cut off from the country’s interior.

The DRC, the UN and Western countries say Rwanda is supporting the rebels in a bid to control vast mineral resources, an allegation Kigali denies.

The rebels have conquered vast swathes of North Kivu in the last two years.

According to a confidential UN document seen by AFP earlier this week, the Rwandan army is using sophisticated weapons such as surface-to-air missiles to support the M23.

A “suspected Rwandan Defence Force mobile surface-to-air missile” was fired at a UN observation drone last Wednesday without hitting it, the report said.

UN forces have been in the DRC for nearly 25 years but stand accused of failing to protect civilians from armed groups.

The UN Security Council voted in December to accede to Kinshasa’s demand for a pullout despite the volatile situation.

With multiple diplomatic efforts failing to quell the violence in the Congo, African leaders meeting for a summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa discussed the DRC situation on the sidelines late Friday and again on Saturday.

Angolan President Joao Lourenco — the AU’s mediator — gathered several East African heads of state in Addis Ababa to discuss the situation in eastern DRC.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, who is in Addis, was sworn in for a second five-year term in January after sweeping elections the opposition branded a sham.

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