Rwandan forces on Tuesday fired at a fighter jet from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that it said had violated its airspace, prompting the Congolese government to accuse it of an act of war.
A video shared widely on Congolese social media showed a projectile shooting towards an airborne military plane, before exploding in the air near the plane, which continued to fly. Reuters could not immediately verify the video.
The incident has already escalated tensions between Congolese and Rwandan near the shared border.
The DRC have been flying fighter jets along the border to fend off M23 rebels. The Congolese government accuses Rwanda of backing M23 rebels, who have seized several border points and are at the gate of Goma City.
Rwanda denies the allegations, Rwanda too accuses DRC of supporting FDRL (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) a Rwanda rebel group.
Congo denied Rwanda’s accusation that the jet had been in Rwandan airspace – the latest dispute between the two countries whose relationship has been strained by a rebel insurgency.
“The Rwandan shots were directed towards a Congolese aircraft flying within Congolese territory,” it said in a statement, confirming the plane had landed in the provincial capital Goma without suffering major damage.
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.
Earlier the Rwandan government said Rwandan forces had fired at the jet after it violated Rwandan airspace in Rubavu – the same area as previous alleged violations, “prompting the government to take defensive measures.”
“Rwanda asks the DRC to stop this aggression,” government spokesperson Yolande Makolo said in a statement.
By press time Kinshasa hadn’t issued a statement about the incident. In photographs circulated on social media, the Congolese soldiers were seen inspecting the damaged plane yesterday evening.
The DRC has only two fighter jets and the damage suffered by one curtails their aerial superiority against the rebels and its rival neighbour, Rwanda.