Rwanda Warns Congo After Shells Hit Its Territory

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NAIROBI, Kenya -- The escalating conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo threatened to embroil Rwanda after a woman there was killed and her baby wounded in shelling on Thursday, Rwanda's government said.

Congolese forces with the support of a new United Nations intervention brigade are fighting rebels in the eastern part of the country near the city of Goma. The Rwandan government said Thursday that the Congolese military had deliberately shelled Rwandan territory and intended to strike Rwandan civilians.

"The persistent shelling of Rwandan territory is unacceptable, as it would be to any sovereign nation," said Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda's foreign minister, in a statement. "We have remained restrained for as long as we can, but this provocation can no longer be tolerated."

There has been a significant diplomatic effort to prevent the situation from escalating further, with the head of the United Nations mission, Martin Kobler, traveled to Kigali, Rwanda's capital, on Thursday to meet with officials there. The United Nations has previously accused Rwanda of backing the Congolese rebels of the M23 movement.

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session on the situation in eastern Congo on Thursday. The Council issued a statement condemning recent attacks by the M23 rebels against civilians and peacekeepers. A Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed, and 10 other peacekeepers were wounded on Wednesday.

Fighting in eastern Congo has intensified significantly over the past week. The United Nations has taken a more aggressive stance against the rebels, sending in its 3,000-member intervention brigade, with a mandate to take the battle to the rebels. United Nations forces in recent days have fired mortars and artillery and even used attack helicopters in support of the Congolese military.

Rwanda said that a total of 34 bombs and rockets fired by the Congolese military had landed in its territory over the past week. A bomb landed in the market in the town of Rubavu at 9:45 a.m. on Thursday, killing the woman and wounding her 2-month-old baby. Another person was wounded there later in the morning.

A United Nations spokesman said Thursday that the shelling into Rwanda came from rebel-held positions.

"We have the capacity to determine who fired at us and will not hesitate to defend our territory," Ms. Mushikiwabo said. "Rwanda has a responsibility to protect its population."

The shelling was "a sustained strategy of provocation designed to draw Rwanda into the conflict," Ms. Mushikiwabo said.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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