A senior commander of the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) has reportedly been killed in the DRC in a battle with the M23 rebels in the area of Kanyaruchinya, North Kivu Province.
The specific particulars of the commander and the circumstances of his death are still not clear, with different sources giving conflicting accounts.
According to the M23 spokesperson Col Vianny Kazarama, the commander has been identified as Colonel Nsagano Dire Musuhuke, also known as Ahmed Soki.
This information is countered by Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita, the spokesperson of Rwanda Defence Forces, who told The New Times newspaper that the dead commander is Colonel Anaclet Hitimana, who goes by the names of Kabuyoya Gasarasi. While both sides agree that he was the second in Command for the FDLR and in charge of Busanza sector, in North Kivu Province, Kazarama insists that Hitimana is still alive and that it is Musuhuke who was killed.
There is also a disagreement on where the said commander was killed and who killed him. Major Jill Rutaremara is quoted as saying Hitimana fell into an ambush mounted by both Rwandan and Congolese forces at Kibuwa in Masisi region. He says two of Hitimana’s escorts were also killed in the joint operation meant to flush out and disarm FDLR rebels in the Congo.
He says the rebel commander’s death was a result of a week-long joint operation after an agreement reached between DRC and Rwanda following talks between security and political officials of both countries.
Kazarama on the other hand says the commander was killed shortly after his forces attempted to attack the M23 base located 11 kilometres from the North Kivu Provincial Capital of Goma.
Kazarama further revealed that the FDLR rebels also attempted to attack the M23 bases in the areas of Nyiragongo and Rutshuru but failed to hold ground and retreated with heavy casualties. He says that the FDLR first stormed the villages and raided cattle in the area of Busanza targeting Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese at around 4:00am on Wednesday. Fighting started about 30 minutes later when the M23 pursued the FDLR to stop them from taking away the cattle.
Kazarama claims that the FDLR Commander was killed alongside 23 of his men but this could not be independently verified by URN reporter.
The government of DRC meanwhile says it was not aware and had no hand in the attack on the M23 territory.
Congolese government spokesperson Lambert Mende says the rebels may have been attacked by a rival rebel group and rubbished claims that the FDLR rebels, most of whom fled Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, have been fighting alongside the government forces.
He, however, says that the government was aware that the second in Command of the FDLR rebels had been killed on Wednesday in a battle with the M23.
The FDLR is a rebel group that was formed after the alleged perpertators of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide fled to the then Zaire.