AUGUST 3, 2010: DR Congo army takes Ugandan rebel base: government

DR Congo army takes Ugandan rebel base: government

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

KINSHASA — The army in the Democratic Republic of Congo has seized a Ugandan rebel base and recaptured rebel-held villages in the strife-wracked northeast, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

"Most places in the territory of Beni previously controlled by this militia have been liberated," Lambert Mende said, referring to the ADF/NALU (Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda).

The Congolese army, or FARDC, has been waging an offensive on ADF/NALU for six weeks in Beni, a territory in DR Congo's violent Nord-Kivu province where a range of armed movements are active.

"The headquarters of ADF/NALU at Mwalika has been recaptured by loyalist forces," Mende added.

He claimed that the commander in chief of the Ugandan rebel movement "was killed in combat in early days of fighting," without giving further details.

The ADF rebels, who say they are fighting for equal rights for Ugandan Muslims, battled Ugandan troops in the Ruwenzori region of eastern DR Congo, close to the border with Uganda, between 1996 and 2001.

After clashes that displaced tens of thousands of civilians, the rebels were driven further back into the DR Congo, where the latest offensive was launched under the name of Operation Ruwenzori.

The FARDC offensive has caused at least 90,000 people to flee their homes since the end of June, according to the United Nations.

Mende said the chief of general staff of the FARDC, General Didier Etumba, has been on the field of operations for 10 days, he added.

"A small pocket is holding out around Eringeti (35 kilometres / 25 miles north of Beni), which is already controlled by the FARDC. We've been cleaning them out for two days. Already today, all the main road routes are open."

Mende said the remaining fighters had fled in the direction of Uganda.

"The residual elements of this armed group fled in disarray towards the heights of Mount Ruwenzori, which is incontestably the right direction for their country," he said.

Since the end of 2008, the ADF has tried several times to begin negotiations with the Ugandan authorities, but the Kampala government has expressed doubts as to the sincerity of the offer.

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