/ 23 January 2009

DRC rebel Nkunda arrested

Congolese Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has been arrested in Rwandan territory after he tried to resist a joint Rwandan-Congolese military operation in eastern Congo, the operation’s joint command said on Friday.

The arrest of Nkunda, who has led a Tutsi rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since 2004, occurred during a joint Congolese-Rwandan military operation launched this week to hunt Rwandan Hutu rebels operating in the DRC.

”The joint operations command … informs the public that the ex-general Laurent Nkunda was arrested on Thursday, January 22 at 22.30 hours while he was fleeing on Rwandan territory after he had resisted our troops at Bunagana with three battalions,” a Congolese/Rwandan official statement said.

In the joint operation aimed at pacifying eastern DRC, more than 3 500 Rwandan troops have crossed the border into Congolese territory to join Congolese government forces in trying to disarm Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels.

The Rwandan Hutu rebel FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) movement, which emerged after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, is widely viewed as the root cause of more than a decade of instability in east Congo, which has included Nkunda’s rival Tutsi insurgency.

Late last year, Nkunda led fighters from his rebel Tutsi National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) in an offensive in Congo’s North Kivu province which displaced more than a quarter of a million civilians. – Reuters