KINSHASA: Rwandan and Congolese troops traded heavy weapons fire on Thursday (Friday in Manila) in a second day of fighting on the border between the two neighbors, which have been locked in a decades-long dispute.
After the morning clashes abated, rival troops were engaged in a staredown from afar in the mountainous Kanyesheza region which straddles the border, a Congolese administrative official said on condition of anonymity.
An Agence France-Presse reporter on a press trip to the area with the Rwandan army and foreign defense attaches said the combat zone—some 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the border towns of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Gisenyi in Rwanda—was calm on Thursday afternoon.
“There were heavy arms fire, explosions, rockets,” which lasted for half an hour, said a resident in the area of the morning clashes.
Another resident on the Congolese side of the frontier said about “30 families” were fleeing the border regions after the fighting.
A senior Congolese military officer said that Rwandan troops had attacked their positions, but a Rwandan military source, also speaking anonymously, told Agence France-Presse that there had “not been serious clashes, they were sporadic firings” of heavy weapons.
The latest cross-border clash came a day after the two sides exchanged automatic weapons fire, with each blaming the other for the outbreak of violence.
Rwanda’s army on Thursday displayed five bodies to journalists which it said were Congolese soldiers killed in the fighting on Wednesday, an Agence France-Presse reporter said.
Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the Congolese government, accused Rwanda of lying about the deaths of its soldiers.
“Rwandans have taken corpses from hospitals, or killed poor peasants—perhaps Congolese, Rwandan maybe—just to back up their story,” he said.
The DRC has said only one of its soldiers was killed.
The Congolese army said the conflict started after one of its soldiers was kidnapped by Rwandan troops who crossed into its North Kivu province.