Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo launched joint air and artillery strikes in eastern Congo on Tuesday against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), both countries said.
“As announced, the targeted and concerted actions with the Ugandan army started today with airstrikes and artillery fire from Uganda on the positions of ADF terrorists in the DRC,” Congo government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said on Twitter.
The joint attack came just a day after the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government denied agreeing to joint operations with Uganda’s army to track down Islamist rebels accused of suicide bombings in Kampala, insisting the two countries were only sharing intelligence.
President Felix Tshisekedi informed the United Nations peacekeeping mission on Friday he had authorised military cooperation with Uganda against the ADF, but did not provide any further details, a senior U.N. diplomat said.
Congo’s government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said the two armies have been exchanging information for many months, and that no Ugandan troops were currently in Congo.
“We have not said there will be joint operations. We have said there will be concerted actions,” he told a news conference, without elaborating. “If there is a need to go up a notch, we will.”
Last week, Uganda’s foreign minister said his country had the right to pursue the ADF in Congo.
“We have a right to self defence, to hot pursuit. We can respond in self defence and enter DRC,” Henry Okello Oryem, state minister for foreign affairs, said.
The joint offensive is the first time Uganda has publicly intervened against the ADF in Congo since a brief campaign in December 2017.
Based in Congo since the late 1990s, the Islamic State-linked militia is blamed for killing hundreds of villagers in the east of the country in raids.
IS has claimed responsibility for some of the ADF’s violence including a triple suicide bombing in Kampala on November 16, which killed seven people, including the bombers, but United Nations researchers said no evidence of IS command and control over ADF operations was found.