By Ivan Mwine
The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) on Tuesday bombed camps for Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The joint operation being conducted between Ugandan and Congolese forces was agreed upon by the governments of DRC and Uganda following terrorist bombings in Kampala last month that left several people dead and others injured.
Lt.Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Commander of Land Forces confirmed the operation when he tweeted on Tuesday thus;
“Today morning, UPDF and FARDC launched joint air and artillery strikes against ADF camps. This will affect even those that are sponsoring them!”
However, the DRC’s government on Monday had said the two armies have been exchanging information for many months, and that no Ugandan troops were currently in the country.
For his part, Patrick Muyaya, the DRC’s government spokesman and communications minister said Tuesday; “Targeted and concerted action with the Ugandan army started today with air strikes and artillery fire from Uganda against positions of the terrorist ADF in the DRC.
“We have not said there will be joint operations. We have said there will be concerted actions,” Muyaya had told a news conference, without elaborating. “If there is a need to go up a notch, we will,” he added.
Locals said they heard explosions on Tuesday morning in Watalinga territory, North Kivu province, in the borderlands of eastern DRC.
“There is a real panic here at home, especially because we were not informed of this situation,” resident Julien Ngandayabo told Reuters news agency.
“We have suffered too much with the ADF, who have massacred our families. We are waiting to see if this is the solution.”
Pascal Saambili, head of the Watalinga chiefdom, said the community woke up to the sound of heavy bombardment which continued during the morning.
The ADF was founded in Uganda in 1995 and later moved to the DRC where it is one among dozens of armed groups seeking control over territory and mineral resources in the east of the country.
The ADF group, which the United States has formally linked to ISIL (ISIS), was blamed for the November 16 suicide bombings in the heart of the Ugandan capital which killed seven people, including the three bombers, and wounded dozens more.
The November 16th terrorist attack was the third ISIL has claimed in Uganda. It also claimed responsibility for an attack at Digida pork restaurant in a suburb of Kampala on October 23 that killed a waitress while a third attack on October 8 killed no one.