Congolese forces killed the leader of an offshoot of a Hutu militia in the restive east of the country, the army said, two months after killing the leader of the main faction.
Juvenal Musabimana led a splinter group of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), founded by Hutu officials who fled Rwanda after orchestrating the 1994 genocide.
His killing is another blow to the FDLR, weakened in recent years by arrests of several leaders and military pressure from Democratic Republic of Congo’s armed forces, FARDC, and other militias.
The army “neutralised another radical leader of the FDLR on Saturday the ninth of November at 14:00,” said Guillaume Njike, a Congolese army spokesman.
Musabimana, also known by the nom de guerre Jean-Michel Africa, was killed with four of his bodyguards following a firefight in Binza, North Kivu, near the Ugandan border, Njike added.
Congolese forces killed the leader of the main branch of FDLR, Sylvestre Mudacumura, on September 18.
The group split in a row over ranks and money in 2007, said Christoph Vogel, a researcher at the conflict research programme hosted by the London School of Economics and Ghent University.
“Compared with Mudacumura, (Musabimana) is a small fish so I doubt this is as significant, but it shows different actors seem to be converging in a co-ordinated push against FDLR and anything they define as such.”
Rwanda foreign affairs minister Olivier Nduhungirehe said Musabimana’s fighters were responsible for a deadly cross-border attack in October in a mountainous region famous for its mountain gorillas in which eight people died.
“This is an act of justice,” he told Reuters.
“This is confirmation of the resolve of President Félix Tshisekedi and FARDC to eradicate armed groups and terrorist organisations in eastern Congo. We thank them for that.”
The FDLR has been a source of friction between Rwanda and Uganda in the last year. Rwanda accused Uganda in March of supporting the FDLR and another Congo-based rebel group opposed to the Rwandan government. Uganda denied the allegations.