UN peacekeepers and Congolese troops have been wounded in an offensive against a militia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations’ mission to the country said on Thursday.
The joint operation was launched on Tuesday against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group rooted in Ugandan jihadism and blamed for a series of attacks in the region.
The offensive aimed at Kididiwe, about 20km from the city of Beni, said General Bernard Commins, deputy head of the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO.
“We are holding Kididiwe at present, after violent fighting with an armed group. At present, we are evacuating wounded Congolese troops and Blue Helmets,” he told AFP.
Commins said he was “unable” to say if there had been fatalities, amid reports that the peacekeepers had suffered losses.
Kididiwe is a “major stronghold” of the ADF, Commins said. A Congolese officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the town had been used as a springboard for militia attacks on Beni’s suburbs this year.
On Wednesday, Commins said MONUSCO had deployed attack helicopters against ADF forces threatening UN troops in the Mayangose area, northeast of Beni.
The ADF, operating in North Kivu province near the Ugandan border, has been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of civilians since 2014 as well as of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers last December.
On Monday, MONUSCO’s head, Leila Zerrougui, sounded the alarm over violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east, warning it threatened hopes for staging trouble-free elections on December 23.
MONUSCO has around 17 000 members, making it one of the UN’s biggest peacekeeping operations. Created in 1999, it has an annual budget of $1.153bn.