UPDATE 5-Congo rebel leader Nkunda arrested in Rwanda

Fri Jan 23, 2009 6:32pm GMT

(Updates with analyst and aid worker comment)

By John Kanyunyu and Joe Bavier

GOMA, Congo Jan 23 (Reuters) - Rwanda and Congo on Friday announced the arrest in Rwandan territory of Congolese Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda in a joint move aimed at bringing peace to conflict-torn eastern Congo.

Nkunda, who has led a Tutsi rebellion in Congo's east since 2004 and is wanted for war crimes, was detained late on Thursday and Congo's government said it would seek his extradition.

Congolese and Rwandan military commanders said Nkunda was arrested after he tried to resist a joint Congolese-Rwandan operation launched this week to hunt Rwandan Hutu FDLR militiamen operating in Congo.

Nkunda's arrest has been widely viewed as being part of an agreement that allowed Rwanda to send over 3,500 troops into Congo this week, marking unprecedented cooperation between the Great Lakes neighbours after years of suspicion and hostility.

Aid workers said hundreds of children recruited to the rebel ranks might soon be free to leave as a result of the arrest.

Wars, rebellions and ethnic violence since 1998 have killed more than 5 million Congolese, holding back the development of the huge former Belgian colony in central Africa, which is rich in minerals such as copper, cobalt, coltan, gold and uranium.

"Ex-general Laurent Nkunda was arrested on Thursday, January 22 at 2230 hours while he was fleeing on Rwandan territory after he had resisted our troops at Bunagana with three battalions," Congolese and Rwandan military commanders said in a statement.   Continued...

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