United Nations attack helicopters firing rockets went into action in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today after rebels attempting to advance against the Government opened fire on UN reconnaissance planes.
The UN action was the latest in a series of strikes against the rebel Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front (FRPI) in Ituri province, and comes less than two weeks after peacekeepers from the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) sent in combat helicopters against another rebel group in North Kivu province, to the south.
"MONUC is intervening with all the means at its disposal, including attack helicopters, to protect the civilian population which is in imminent danger," the mission said in a news release. "Moreover MONUC is cooperating with the DRC armed forces to re-establish state authority over the whole of Ituri."
Residual FRPI elements launched attacks on Monday against the army, capturing two camps and advancing towards the village of Aveba before they were repulsed by MONUC.
On September 19, UN helicopters opened fire on the rebel National Congress for People's Defence (CNDP) in North Kivu, forcing them to withdraw after they tried to take control of a town 60 kilometres from the region's main city, Goma.
Humanitarian and human rights organizations are reporting a sharp increase in the recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups in North Kivu, a crime against humanity and a violation of an agreement they signed at the beginning of the year, MONUC spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux told a news conference today in Kinshasa, the DRC capital.
Hostilities have continued in eastern DRC despite stabilization in much of the rest of the vast country, which was torn by years of civil war. On Monday, the DRC called for UN peacekeepers to be given a clear mandate and the resources necessary to impose peace by force if necessary.
"Confronted by the drama occurring in the east of the Congo, MONUC must be authorized to act, and can act in a convincing manner," Permanent Representative Ileka Atoki told the General Assembly's annual General Debate.