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Rwanda shoots Congolese warplane after ‘airspace violation’

A Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from DR Congo has violated Rwanda’s airspace for the third time (PHOTO/Courtesy)

A Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from DR Congo has violated Rwanda’s airspace for the third time (PHOTO/Courtesy)

Rwandan military has shot and inflicted damages on a Congolese warplane after it purportedly violated Rwanda airspace, Kigali has said in a statement.

The Democratic Republic of Congo fighter jet that entered Rwandan airspace on Tuesday has been identified as Sukhoi-25, a Soviet Union made aircraft.

Kigali said this was the third time such an incident has occurred in three months, forcing it’s military to take “defensive measures”.

“Today at 17h03, a Sukhoi-25 from DR Congo violated Rwanda airspace for the third time,” a Rwandan government statement released on Tuesday evening reads in part.

“Defensive measures were taken.”

It adds, “Rwanda asks DR Congo to stop this aggression.”

The brief statement came as videos and photos emerged on social media showing a Sukhoi-25 being shot at as it flew low and subsequently landed at Goma airport near the border while still on fire.

The fire was eventually extinguished but not without inflicting visible damage on the Soviet Union-made aircraft.

The first such incident occurred last year, on November 7, when a Sukhoi-25 warplane reportedly violated Rwanda’s airspace, briefly touching down at Rubavu airport in Western Province.

At the time, Congolese authorities acknowledged the incident.

A second incident happened on December 28 when a jet of the same type again entered Rwanda’s airspace without Permission from Kigali.

No military actions were taken and the warplane returned to Congo on both occasions.

The incidents come at a time of particularly high tensions between the neighbours, as Congo blames Rwanda for supporting a rebel group fighting in its east.

Congo and Rwanda have been at odds since M23 rebels stepped up offensives in eastern Congo this year.

Congolese authorities have long accused Rwanda of backing the Tutsi-led group, which resumed fighting against Congo’s army on Oct. 20 in North Kivu province. Congo expelled the Rwandan ambassador days later in retaliation for this alleged support.

Rwanda denies any involvement, saying the accusations are a tactic to cover up Congo’s security failures.

Officials from both countries held talks in Angola on Saturday to end the political stand-off.

Unrest in North Kivu has broken months of relative calm in east Congo, a mineral rich area plagued with militia activity.

Army forces have clashed with M23 rebels several times since fighting resumed, prompting more than 90,000 people to flee their homes.

Thousands staged anti-Rwanda protests in the eastern city of Goma on Oct. 31.

Congo and Rwanda pledged to end hostilities in July, weeks after the group staged its most serious offensive since a 2012-2013 insurrection that seized vast swathes of territory.

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