Hundreds of Rwandans linked to a militia in eastern DR Congo have been handed to the Rwandan authorities weeks after they were captured, the Congolese army said on Sunday.
Some 71 rebels and almost 1,500 family members and dependents were transported across the border on Saturday, said Captain Dieudonne Kasereka, army spokesman in DR Congo’s South Kivu province.
The rebels were said to be members of a militia known as the CNRD — an offshoot of the FDLR, a group created by refugees in eastern DR Congo after the 1994 genocide of Tutsis by the majority Hutus in Rwanda.
Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been plagued by overlapping conflicts and rebellions fuelled by ethnic and land disputes, competition for control of mineral resources and regional rivalries.
FDLR fighters have regularly been accused of atrocities against civilians during their long-running rebellion across the mineral-rich eastern Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu as well as in southern Katanga.
The 1,500 who crossed the border on Saturday were “the last wave of those captured and surrendered who were still being held in the Nyamunyunyi military camp”, Kasereka said, referring to a camp 30 kilometres (20 miles) from Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu.
The military said almost 300 rebel fighters had been sent to Rwanda earlier this month, following an operation by the army in South Kivu.
The United Nations had estimated that the FDLR, or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, and its offshoots numbered between 500 and 600 active fighters in early 2019.
The Congolese army has claimed several victories over the militia in recent months, including the apparent killings of two of its commanders.
Rwanda’s Tutsi-dominated government has welcomed the anti-militia operations in DR Congo, saying their territory has also been targeted by the Hutu rebels.