Kinshasa: Helicopters of a special UN force in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo today fired on Ugandan rebels to help government troops retake the town of Kamango after an attack that killed civilians.
"South African helicopters in the UN intervention force were asked by FARDC (the DR Congo army) to give them support to recapture Kamango," said a senior officer with the UN mission to DR Congo (MONUSCO) who declined to be identified by name.
"We have already taken back Kamango," said Lieutenant-Colonel Olivier Amuli, a FARDC army spokesman in North-Kivu province, the mineral-rich but volatile region plagued by a number of armed groups.
Amuli admitted that at the time of the attack on Kamango the Congolese forces "withdrew because they were outnumbered".
Teddy Kataliko, head of the civil society in the Beni region where Kamango is located, as well as the MONUSCO officer, could not confirm to AFP the retaking of the town.
The civil organisation blamed the initial attack on the Islamist Ugandan rebel group ADF-Nalu in collaboration with Uganda`s army. It is one of the oldest but least known armed groups based in eastern DR Congo.
"We have 10 people kidnapped, 11 civilians and five soldiers wounded, and several civilian killed, as well as homes burned, by the attackers," Kataliko earlier told AFP.
He also said the attackers were "now heading towards the town of Nobili," on the Congolese-Ugandan border, where more than 150,000 people have taken refuge from the fighting.
"We believe there is the risk of a massacre and that`s why we are asking to establish a humanitarian corridor," he said, making an appeal to the government to come to the aid of those people.
ADF-Nalu stands for Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda and is considered the only Islamist organisation in the region.
In July the Congolese army battled the ADF-Nalu rebels to take control of the Kamango region, but the fighting had sent tens of thousand of people fleeing for safety in neighbouring Uganda.
MONUSCO reported that at least 21 people were killed last week with "extreme brutality" in the Beni region. The UN did not identify the assailants but again local civil groups pointed to the Ugandan rebels.
The rebels are led by Jamil Mukulu, a Christian convert to Islam, and has never really managed to take its fight against President Yoweri Museveni`s regime to Uganda.