Rwanda army using surface-to-air missiles in east DR Congo: UN documentMon, 12 Feb 2024 14:59:50 GMT

The Rwandan army supporting M23 rebels in eastern DR Congo is using sophisticated weapons such as surface-to-air missiles, according to a UN document seen by AFP on Monday, as the conflict escalates.With fighting intensifying on the ground, tensions are running high in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).A “suspected Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) mobile Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM)” was fired at a UN observation drone last Wednesday without hitting it, the confidential report said.”External military intelligence from France supports assessment that the suspected WZ551 6×6 IFV mobile SAM system is Rwandan,” it added.Attached to the report are two aerial images in which a six-wheeled armoured vehicle is visible with a radar and missile launcher system on the roof.The photos were taken by the targeted drone about 70 kilometres (44 miles) north of the city of Goma, in rebel-held Rutshuru territory.The UN’s MONUSCO peacekeeping mission says in the document it has “no past reporting of known armed groups possessing the training, capital or resources to operate and maintain a mobile SAM system”.It added that it “indicates an escalation of conventional force conflict in eastern DRC”.The document notes that M23 and the Rwanda army have used numerous weapons against aircraft and also have in their armoury anti-aircraft guns and MANPAD mobile air defence systems.Such weapons pose a high risk to all DRC government and UN aircraft in the region, the document states.Neither the United Nations nor the DRC army had so far commented on the incident.In late January, M23 spokesman Willy Ngoma appeared in a video on YouTube threatening MONUSCO with reprisals and accused it of supplying “enemies”, or DRC forces, with information about rebel activity gathered by drones.Ngoma shows the camera what he said was debris from a CH-4 drone flown by DRC forces and shot down by a rebel.The DRC, the UN and Western countries say Rwanda is supporting the rebels, an allegation Kigali denies.Clashes have intensified recently between the M23 — among the strongest of dozens of armed groups roaming the country’s troubled east — and the Congolese army.The flare-up has pushed thousands of civilians to flee the town of Sake, a strategic location on the route towards Goma, capital of North Kivu province.The M23 has seized vast swathes of North Kivu since emerging from dormancy in late 2021, in an area wracked by violence for decades following regional wars in the 1990s.- Protests target embassies, UN -DRC authorities on Monday stepped up security outside embassies and UN buildings after they were targeted by protesters accusing the West of supporting the M23 rebels.On Saturday, embassy and United Nations vehicles were targeted by demonstrators.The head of the UN’s MONUSCO peacekeeping mission Bintou Keita said on X, formerly Twitter, that several of its vehicles had been set alight.Protests broke out last week in the capital Kinshasa and the southeastern city of Lubumbashi.On Friday, dozens of youths demonstrated outside the French and British embassies and earlier in the week, in front of the US embassy.”The government has decided to strengthen the security arrangements in different embassies as well as in the premises of MONUSCO,” it said late Sunday.AFP journalists early on Monday saw that policing had been increased at several sites in the capital.Dozens of youths were also gathering for new marches and had burnt tyres on the pavement.As a precaution, foreign schools were closed on Monday morning, as well as some shops in the centre of Kinshasa.