Uganda, DR Congo forces warn of rebel sabotage in joint military operation

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KASESE, UGANDA - NOVEMBER 29: Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) patrol after the clashes between UPDF and Rwenzururu kingdom's royal guards near the Kingdom's palace in the Kasese region in Uganda on November 29, 2016. Heavy fighting broke out Saturday in the western town of Kasese, home to King Charles Wesley Mumbere of the Rwenzururu kingdom, when his royal guards attacked patrolling security forces, killing 14 police officers and 41 militants. The Rwenzururu kingdom is a traditional monarchy based near the Rwenzori mountains which straddle Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, of the Bakonzo people -- with supporters among those who share the same culture and language in the DRC. (Photo by Lubowa Abubaker/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The security forces of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have warned of a plot by an unnamed armed group to scuttle and discredit their military operation in the east DR Congo to eliminate the threat of an Islamist-linked rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

In a joint statement, Uganda and the DR Congo said the group aims to create hostility towards the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) and the Congolese army (FARDC) among locals and cause panic by impersonating Ugandan forces with an aim of causing chaos and damage.

FILE PHOTO: Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) troops on patrol. /Getty Images

“By wearing UPDF uniform and insignia, the members of this group plan to resort to this subterfuge to camouflage themselves to be able to go on an atrocious rampage to wreck unscalable havoc, including massacres, in order to badly injure the image of the UPDF, ultimately creating the belief that it is the UPDF attacking the people they have saved and protected, so far,” a statement signed by Brigadier General Flavia Byekwaso and Major General Léon Richard Kasonga, spokesmen of UPDF and FARDC, respectively, said.

The statement cited an incident earlier this month when uniform similar to the UPDF was discovered among an assortment of goods inside a commercial truck intercepted by customs authorities in the city of Butembo in North Kivu province. The vehicle, its cargo and its handlers are still being held at the city’s customs office.

The UPDF and FARDC reassured the public that this development will not make them waver in their mission to defeat the rebels and maintained that they respect human rights, international law and humanitarian aid and rules of engagement.

In November last year, Ugandan and Congolese forces launched joint air and artillery strikes in the DR Congo’s eastern region against Islamist-allied ADF rebels.

The offensive came in the wake of Islamic State saying their local affiliate was responsible for an attack in the Ugandan capital Kampala on November 16 that killed at least seven people, including the three bombers, and injured dozens more.

The offensive has reported some successes thus far, among them the seizure and destruction of a number of ADF training camps, the arrest of several architects involved in recruiting rebels, in addition to the release of several hostages.

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