KINSHASA, Jan 23 – The Democratic Republic of Congo said Friday that Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has been arrested in neighbouring Rwanda following a joint operation.,
The DR Congo army and Rwandan army "inform the public of the arrest of deposed general Laurent Nkunda Thursday at 10:30 pm while fleeing in Rwandan territory after putting up brief resistance," said a statement issued DR Congo police.
Rwanda sent thousands of troops into Congo Tuesday as part of a joint agreement to eradicate Rwandan Hutu rebels based across the border and quench a revolt by Tutsis against Kinshasa.
DR Congo and Rwandan troops advanced Thursday on Nkunda’s headquarters at Bunangana in the Nord-Kivu region of the east of the country.
Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) movement nearly took over the regional capital of Goma last year, sparking a new humanitarian crisis in the region already full of refugees.
However, his position had become perilous since his top commanders defected and went over to Congolese forces last week, saying their conflict with Kinshasa was over.
Nkunda, a Tutsi ex-general, had been silent since.
An AFP journalist in Bunangana on Thursday saw some CNDP troops moving through the town but preparations being made for defending the town.
Rebel chief of staff Bosco Ntaganda claims to have removed Nkunda as the CNDP leader and put his forces at the disposal of the allied armies to fight their common enemy, the Hutu rebels of Rwandan Democratic Liberation Forces (FDLR).
The rebels, which control much of eastern Congo, have since Tuesday been cooperating with the Congolese army.
Both countries want to finish off the FDLR, which took refuge in Dr Congo after participating in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide which saw the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Kigali blamed Kinshasa for failing to disarm the 6,000-strong Hutu force, which has been at the root of more than a decade of distrust between the neighbours, who finally signed a pact in December.
The Rwandan army twice occupied eastern Congo in the 1990s in its battle against Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels and its return has sparked alarm among local inhabitants, aid agencies and the UN peacekeeping force MONUC.
Around 600 Rwandan troops had taken up position in the verdant hills around the eastern village of Tongo on Thursday, their heavy guns pointed towards FDLR positions which locals said were around 10 kilometres (six miles) away, an AFP reporter said.
The population of Tongo is mostly Hutu and Rwandaphobe and were previously targeted by Rwandan forces in 1996 amid suspicions they participated in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
Aid agencies like UNICEF and local people have expressed concern the advancing military forces will fail to differentiate between locals and FDLR combatants.