Rwanda’s defense force shot at a Democratic Republic of Congo Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack jet with man portable air defence weapon (MANPAD) that allegedly violated its airspace, as tensions between the neighboring countries escalate.
In a video shared on Twitter by the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA), on Tuesday, a projectile could be seen shooting toward an airborne military plane, before exploding in the air near the plane.
The plane continued to fly and later crashed landed as seen in subsequent videos. Congo said the plane did not suffer any major damages.
It’s the third time a Congolese military aircraft entered Rwandan airspace in recent months, the office of the spokesperson of Rwanda’s government said in a statement. Congo denied the plane entered Rwanda, according to a statement on Twitter.
Rwanda took “defensive measures” against the Sukhoi-25 jet, it said. “Rwanda asks the Democratic Republic of Congo to stop this aggression.”
“Today at 5:03 pm, a Sukhoi-25 from DR Congo violated Rwanda airspace for the third time. Defensive measures were taken. Rwanda asks the DRC to stop this aggression,” the statement reads.
The DRC countered the Rwandan authorities, saying the aircraft was flying “within Congolese territory”.
It described Rwanda’s move as a “deliberate act of aggression that amounts to an act of war” aimed at undermining a peace agreement to end an offensive by the M23 rebel group.
The attack signals a likelihood of Rwanda invading the Eastern part of the DRC.
“The government considers this umpteenth attack by Rwanda as a deliberate action”, the DRC’s ministry of information said.
The action sparks an escalation following months of conflict caused by the rebel group in eastern DR Congo, which has forced thousands of people to flee their homes.
DR Congo, the United States, and United Nations (UN) experts had earlier cited “solid evidence” accusing Rwanda of backing the M23 rebel group with weapons and other forms of support.
Relations between the two nations are being strained by conflict in eastern Congo, where the army is fighting the M23 rebel group that Congo says is backed by Rwanda.
Rwanda has denied this and blames the Congolese government for the conflict.
The violence has displaced 450,000 people.
Congo’s mineral-rich east — adjoining Rwanda — has been beset by conflict since the mid-1990s, when the aftermath of a civil war and genocide in Rwanda spread over the border, enveloping more than a half-dozen African nations. Despite a 2003 peace agreement, fighting persists, with about 100 armed groups active in the region.
Last year, cross-border artillery rocket attacks between the two neighbors was linked to a fresh offensive by the M23 rebel group.