Several suspected Rwandan rebels have been killed and others captured in a heavy military operation run by Congolese forces in partnership with the Rwandan army and rebels in South Kivu, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
On Thursday, reports indicated that Habib Mudasru, an alleged senior commander of Rwanda National Congress (RNC) rebels operating in South Kivu, was arrested.
He is said to have been taken to Rwanda for interrogation.
A picture seen by ChimpReports showed a wounded Habib lying on the ground.
Another photo shows a lifeless body of a militant identified by sections of the Rwandan media as ‘Captain Sibo’.
It is alleged captain Sibo was the ‘deputy’ of dissident General Kayumba Nyamwasa, a claim we could not verify.
Kayumba, who lives in exile, maintains his movement does not have any armed combatants and is seeking a political solution to Rwanda’s problems.
Local leaders said these were not RNC commanders but members of DRC-based FDLR, a militia whose leadership and ideology are blamed for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
More pictures have been released showing several militants handcuffed by Congolese forces.
Meanwhile, the Banyamulenge living in South Kivu say the Rwandan Special Forces are fighting alongside Mai Mai rebels and Red Tabara forces who are against the reign of President Pierre Nkurunziza in Burundi.
As of Wednesday night, the fighting was still raging in Minembwe where Rwanda believes General Kayumba’s alleged rebels are hiding.
The people of Minembwe told us that the suspected rebels loyal to Kayumba fled to Kalehe-Mwenga, hundreds of kilometers away.
On Thursday morning, Banyamulenge local leaders said they were strengthening the capabilities of local defence units under the umbrella organisation known as ‘Twirwaneho’ to fight back.
“We have organized this group as a community of Banyamulenge to defend ourselves,” said a local chief who preferred anonymity for security reasons.
“We are mobilizing support for Twirwaneho to defend civilians who include women and children.”
Twirwaneho literally means “let’s defend ourselves.”
ChimpReports has seen Twirwaneho members wielding assault rifles and patrolling the villages.
Wearing dark blue uniform, the Twirwaneho fighters say they will put up defence against what they describe as invaders.
It remains unclear if Twirwaneho will successfully counter the firepower of its rivals.
The Banyamulenge defence units yesterday said they had captured Mai Mai rebels and Rwandan soldiers. They further said they had recaptured many parts of Minembwe.
Additionally, residents of Minembwe has since protested the failure of the country’s armed forces to protect them.
“The Congolese government is looking on as we are being exterminated,” said Antoinette Mukantagara during a protest march in Minembwe this week.
“The Congolese armed forces’ commander sent to Minembwe is facilitating attacks on our communities. Houses have been burnt and gardens destroyed. When we asked him, he said he was executing the agenda of President Felix Tshisekedi,” she added.
Rwanda is yet to deny or confirm its participation in the Minembwe battles but videos and pictures show hundreds of her soldiers crossing into South Kivu.
In a recent interview in Brussels, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Kigali was in the process of formalizing partnerships with Kinshasa to “deal with troublemakers along our border.”
Rwanda’s Chief of Defence Staff Gen Patrick Nyamvumba recently traveled to Kinshasa where he met with Tshisekedi and Congolese generals to deepen military cooperation.