Military helicopters crash in Eastern Congo, 4 missing

Onlookers examine the scattered wreckage at the scene of a plane crash in a heavily populated
Photo: The Star

Two military helicopters crashed in a strife-torn part of Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo with at least four crew members on board, authorities said on Monday.

Government spokesperson, Lambert Mende, said that it was not clear what brought down the helicopters on Friday in North Kivu province near the borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

Over the weekend, UN-sponsored Radio Okapi cited military sources as saying that the helicopters crashed while pursuing fighters from the former Congolese rebel group M23.

An army spokesperson declined to comment.

The M23 was the largest of dozens of armed groups in the country and controlled huge swaths of eastern Congo in 2012 and 2013 before it was defeated by Congolese and UN forces.

Reports of a possible M23 revival by former fighters held in camps in Uganda and Rwanda have surged in recent weeks.

Rwanda’s defence ministry said in a statement that a group of about 30 unarmed people claiming to be M23 and fleeing combat with Congo’s army crossed the border at the weekend.

Mende said he had not yet seen the statement.

Earlier this month, Uganda’s government said it had detained more than 100 former M23 rebels trying to return to Congo from camps in Uganda where they have been awaiting amnesties.

Congo said the fighters had encroached onto Congolese territory.

Radio Okapi also reported that the five crew members who were three Russians and two Congolese officers were rescued and brought to hospital.

Mende said he could not confirm that information.

Millions died in regional conflicts in eastern Congo from 1996 to 2003, mostly from hunger and disease while dozens of armed groups continued to fight over natural resources and prey on the civilian population.


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