KINSHASA (Reuters) - U.N. helicopters launched strikes against Ugandan rebels near the northeastern border of Democratic Republic of Congo in response to attacks that killed dozens of people, the force’s top general said on Tuesday.
The fighting is the latest in an area ravaged by a regional war that ended in 2003 and still plagued by armed groups.
About 30 people were killed on Sunday when Islamist militant fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacked military bases near the town of Eringeti.
Helicopter gunships fired missiles at ADF positions several miles southeast of Eringeti from about 8 a.m. (0600 GMT), Jean Baillaud, interim force commander for the U.N. mission, MONUSCO, told Reuters, adding he believed rebels suffered losses.
Congo’s army said it played no role in the strikes.
The government and MONUSCO blame the ADF for massacres since October 2014 that have killed more than 500 civilians. Analysts say other armed groups or criminal gangs may also be involved.
Next year could be crucial for the big central African country as President Joseph Kabila’s mandate expires after elections in November and peacekeepers and the army attempt to end violence in the east. Kabila has not commented on his political future and critics say he intends to stay in power.
Kabila, who has held power since 2001, called on Saturday for a national dialogue ahead of the election. The largest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, reacted tepidly to his appeal in a statement on Tuesday.
It said it “did not feel concerned by the dialogue as announced by Mr. Kabila” and called on the United Nations to name an international mediator.
In the southeastern mining hub of Lubumbashi, police fired tear gas to prevent supporters of the TP Mazembe soccer club from reaching the stadium to hear an address by its owner, Moise Katumbi, the club’s website said.
Katumbi is a powerful ex-governor and likely presidential candidate who resigned from Kabila’s party in September.
He says Kabila’s allies want to violate the constitution to keep Kabila in power beyond 2016.
Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Leslie Adler