Ugandan troops have crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as part of a joint operation against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group that both neighbouring countries accuse of massacring civilians.
The two countries said early on Tuesday the group, the deadliest of dozens of militias plaguing the DRC’s mineral-rich east, had been bombarded with artillery and air raids. Ugandan army spokeswoman Flavia Byekwaso said in a statement that “targets were accurately hit”.
Later, large numbers of Ugandan soldiers entered the DRC at the Nobili border post in North Kivu state, a United Nations source and an aid worker told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
“It’s a column of very well-armed troops on foot, followed by armoured vehicles,” the aid worker said.
Video shared on social media also showed advancing soldiers whose uniforms bore the Ugandan flag.
It came as the DRC’s government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said the two sides had decided to cooperate further.
“It was agreed after an assessment to continue in-depth operations by the special forces of the two countries to clear the positions of the terrorists concerned,” he said on Twitter late on Tuesday.
DRC army spokesman Leon-Richard Kasonga said in a statement that “for the time being, Congolese special forces supported by Ugandan special units will carry out search and control operations to clear and secure ADF positions affected by this morning’s strikes.”
“It’s so thick that when you take a step off the dirt roads, it can even be impossible to get through this vegetation. It’s within these forests that the ADF has its hideouts and hidden bases. It’s very difficult terrain to hunt down an armed group that’s using guerilla tactics – and that’s one of the reasons why previous attempts to flush out the ADF has struggled.”
The most recent such bid on the part of the Congolese government was in May, when it placed the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri under a “state of siege” to step up a military offensive against the fighters, with soldiers replacing civil servants in key positions.