(Reuters) – Two Rwandan soldiers captured by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s army last month and accused by Congolese authorities of supporting a rebel offensive have been released, the Rwandan army said on Saturday.
Congo said the two soldiers were being held on its territory, which it cited as evidence that Rwanda supports the ongoing offensive by the M23 rebels. On Thursday, he escalated his accusations, accusing Rwanda of sending 500 disguised special forces into eastern Congo.
Rwanda denied any involvement in the M23 attacks and said the two soldiers were abducted by Congolese forces inside Rwanda.
The escalating dispute has resurfaced old animosities between neighbors. Rwanda invaded eastern Congo twice in the 1990s. On several occasions since then, Congolese and UN experts have accused it of supporting militias in eastern Congo to advance its interests, charges denied by Kigali.
The two soldiers were released following the mediation of Angolan President João Lourenço, the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) said in a statement.
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“The RDF is pleased to announce that the two soldiers are now safely back in Rwanda,” he said.
The Congolese government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Over the past month, the M23 has carried out its most sustained offensive in Congo’s eastern border regions since 2012-2013, when it captured large swaths of territory before being pushed back by Congolese and UN forces.
The group’s name refers to the March 23 date of a 2009 agreement that ended a revolt by a previous militia in eastern Congo. The M23 accused the authorities of failing to deliver on their promises to fully integrate militia members into the army and government.
Rwanda denies playing a role in recent M23 attacks, but has echoed M23 accusations that Congo is collaborating with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed group led by ethnic Hutus who fled Rwanda after participating in the 1994 genocide.
Congo and Rwanda on Friday accused each other of firing rockets across their shared border, including a strike that the Congolese army said killed two Congolese children.
(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Clelia Oziel)
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