Foes cooperate to fight militia

PARTNERSHIP: Congolese army troops, with former rebel combatants in thier ranks, line a road in Rumangabo, north of Goma , Congo, as they march to meet Rwandan troops for jiont operations. Rwandan and Congolese troops are both fighting Rwandan Hutu militamen.  22/01/2009. Pic. T.J. Kirkpatrick.  © AP.
PARTNERSHIP: Congolese army troops, with former rebel combatants in thier ranks, line a road in Rumangabo, north of Goma , Congo, as they march to meet Rwandan troops for jiont operations. Rwandan and Congolese troops are both fighting Rwandan Hutu militamen. 22/01/2009. Pic. T.J. Kirkpatrick. © AP.

Rwandan and Congolese troops have exchanged fire with Rwandan Hutu militiamen in eastern Congo, killing nine in the first fighting following an unprecedented joint military operation , the United Nations (UN) said.

Rwandan and Congolese troops have exchanged fire with Rwandan Hutu militiamen in eastern Congo, killing nine in the first fighting following an unprecedented joint military operation , the United Nations (UN) said.

The skirmish took place around Lubero, west of Lake Edward, late on Saturday said UN peacekeeping spokesman Jean-Paul Dietrich.

Rwanda and Congo have been enemies for years, but the two neighbours suddenly changed tactics and began cooperating in an effort to disarm the rival militia groups each nation has backed as proxies.

Eastern Congo has been wracked by violence since Rwanda's 1994 genocide spilled war across the border and Hutu militias who took part in killing more than 500000 mostly ethnic Tutsi civilians sought refuge in Congo.

Rwanda invaded twice in the 1990s to eradicate the Hutu militias - though it was accused of plundering Congo's vast mineral wealth instead. The presence of the Hutu militias in Congo gave birth in 2004 to a Tutsi rebellion led by Laurent Nkunda, pictured, who was allied to Rwanda and claimed he was defending minority Tutsis against Hutus.

But in a startling turnaround, Rwandan troops captured Nkunda on Thursday as part of a breakthrough deal that saw at least 4000 Rwandan soldiers enter Congo this week to hunt down the Hutu militias, who many say are the root of the conflict.

Inviting Rwandan troops into Congo is a risk for President Joseph Kabila because they are deeply unpopular after two previous invasions.

But the deal includes a promise by the remnants of Nkunda's rebel force to rejoin the army and so far they are cooperating, apparently under pressure from Rwanda, which is believed to hold powerful sway over Tutsis in Congo. - Sapa-AP

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