The M23 rebellion announced on Wednesday January 17 the death of two of its commanders the day before in the fighting between it and the army in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to security sources who requested anonymity, the two men were killed during a strike carried out on Tuesday by a CH-4 combat drone from the Congolese army in Kitshanga, in the Masisi territory of the North province. Kivu. Since the end of 2021, the M23 (March 23 Movement), supported by Kigali, has seized large swaths of territory in this province bordering Rwanda.

The armed forces of the DRC (FARDC), allied for their part with armed groups called “patriots” (“wazalendo”) and two foreign private military companies (Agemira and Congo Protection), equipped themselves in 2023 with combat drones of Chinese manufacture which began to be used in December against rebel positions.

Violent fighting in Masisi territory

The Kinshasa regime “attacked our forces on the front lines” on Tuesday and killed “two of our commanders,” the M23 announced in a statement, promising to respond “adequately” to this attack. The press release does not specify the names of these commanders but, according to internal M23 sources, they are “Colonel” Mberabagabo alias “Castro”, head of intelligence of the rebel movement, and Eraston Bahati, strategy advisor. .

According to local sources, Tuesday was marked by violent fighting in several sectors of Masisi. The fronts appeared calmer on Wednesday, with the exception of the Nyiragongo area, just north of the provincial capital Goma, where residents reported detonations and movements of Congolese army Sukhoi-25 fighter jets.

As the fighting raged, a meeting was held in Goma on Tuesday between the Congolese army and officers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) force that began arriving in the region in December. According to a Congolese officer, it has an “offensive” mission and must help the FARDC “recover the territories” occupied by the M23.

This force succeeds another, which had been deployed by the East African Community (EAC) but which Kinshasa requested to leave, accusing it of not having fought the rebels.

Also on Tuesday, a border incident took place between the DRC and Rwanda, when three Congolese soldiers found themselves on the Rwandan side and, according to Kigali, opened fire. The Rwandan army killed one of these soldiers and arrested the other two. Kinshasa confirmed this report but asserted that the three soldiers had crossed the border “inadvertently”.