Congolese and Rwandan troops have killed nine Hutu rebels, the two armies said, puncturing raised hopes for peace in eastern Congo following Tutsi ex-general Laurent Nkunda's arrest.
The first fighting since the two countries launched controversial joint operations against Rwandan Hutu rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo broke out Friday, shortly after Nkunda was seized in Rwanda, and continued the next day, the armies said in a statement yesterday.
Rwanda has sent at least 5,000 soldiers into neighbouring DR Congo as part of the operation launched Tuesday to track down the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels.
"Nine FDLR were killed and one (DR Congo soldier) was injured in operations that began Friday and continue today in Mitimingi," the statement said.
The clashes follow Rwandan forces' arrest late Thursday of Nkunda, the Tutsi leader of a separate rebel group whose soldiers routed government forces and captured parts of eastern DR Congo last year.
His arrest marked a striking turnaround, with Rwanda having previously been accused of supporting Nkunda in his campaign against the Kinshasa government, raising fears of a regional conflict.
Rwanda has in turn accused DR Congo of sheltering the FDLR. That group includes some of the main perpetrators of the 1994 Hutu genocide in Rwanda which saw the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Nkunda's capture and the joint operations against the FDLR signal shifting alliances in the conflict-torn east and tighter cooperation between former rivals Rwanda and DR Congo.
The ex-general remained in Rwanda on yesterday, a DR Congo government spokesman said, with Kinshasa seeking his extradition.