KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congolese officials accused Rwandan soldiers of detaining a sergeant from Congo's army near the two countries' shared border Sunday, a move they described as a "provocation."
Sgt. Munanga Kafakana was detained Sunday while trying to visit family in the eastern Congo city of Goma, army spokesman Col. Olivier Hamuli said. A Rwandan immigration official said Kafakana had crossed into Rwandan territory, but Hamuli insisted he had not.
"He had not crossed the border, but he was found in a neutral zone when the Rwandan soldiers kidnapped him," Hamuli said. "We are trying to calm the tension here at the border, because the population that alerted us to this arrest wants to go look for him on the other side of the border."
Congo's army engaged in heavy fighting late last month with the M23 rebel group, which observers accuse Rwanda of backing despite consistent denials from Rwanda's government. As the fighting escalated, a convoy of military vehicles was seen leaving the Rwandan capital, Kigali, for the Congolese border, heightening fears the two nations, which have gone to war twice before, might be heading for another confrontation.
A Rwandan immigration official in the border town of Gisenyi, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to brief the media, said Kafakana crossed into Rwanda at around 1 p.m. but was unable to produce documentation. The official said Kafakana had a machine gun and armor.
"Immigration officials requested police to intervene and he was arrested," the Rwandan official said.
Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said the arrest of the soldier was "pure provocation."
"It's clear that we cannot tolerate the Rwandan army kidnapping a Congolese soldier found in the neutral zone," Mende said. "We demand that he be set free immediately and without condition."
Witnesses said a border post had been closed as a result of the incident, though Hamuli said there had been no official decision to close any posts along the border.
Associated Press writer Edmund Kagire contributed to this report from Kigali, Rwanda.