Foreign fighters among dead in war on DR Congo rebels

The DRC, the United Nations and Western countries say Rwanda is supporting the rebels.

M23 rebels DRC war

People gather at a busy road while carrying some of their belongings as they flee the Masisi territory following clashes between M23 rebels and government forces, at a road near Sake on February 7, 2024. – Conflict between M23 rebels and government forces is intensifying in eastern DR Congo’s Masisi territory, residents said on February 7, 2024 after days of unrest that have left dozens injured. Tensions in Masisi have displaced residents of many villages and overwhelmed health centres, according to humanitarian sources. (Photo by Aubin Mukoni / AFP)

Two members of a foreign private military company were among the casualties of government allies fighting rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this week, according to a security source.

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 escalating fighting has pushed thousands of civilians to flee the town of Sake, a strategic location on the route towards Goma, capital of North Kivu province.

According to an internal army report authenticated by AFP on Saturday, “at least two staff of a private military company led by the Romanian Horatiu Potra were killed on Wednesday during clashes around Sake, and six were injured”.

The army recorded “at least 13 deaths and 15 wounded” on the same day, two fighters from allied armed groups also died, and one soldier from the Southern African Development Community was injured.

The document added that the toll was probably under-estimated.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the Goma hospital it supports received on Wednesday alone 58 patients wounded by firearms, including 31 civilians.

On Friday, an AFP reporter saw dozens of soldiers and other wounded armed men in a Goma hospital where all the beds were occupied.

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.

The DRC, the United Nations and Western countries say Rwanda is supporting the rebels, an allegation Kigali denies.