The Rwandan military shot at a fighter jet of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) on Tuesday which had “violated Rwanda’s airspace.”
Witnesses in DR Congo’s town of Goma said they saw a plane flying low over the DR Congo-Rwanda western border from the town of Kitshanga in Congo’s Masisi territory before it was hit.
The aircraft managed to land at Goma airport near the border with Rwanda with a fire burning on its right wing, witnesses said, adding a fire-fighting truck intervened on the runway to prevent the plane from fully catching fire.
Congolese military sources said the Sukhoi-25 aircraft, after spotting the attack, triggered its missile defense system to neutralize the shelling.
A brief statement issued by the office of the Rwandan government spokesperson said the fighter jet from DR Congo had violated the country’s airspace.
“Today, Jan. 24 at 5:03 p.m., a Sukhoi-25 from Congo violated Rwanda’s airspace for the third time. Defensive measures were taken,” it said.
“Rwanda calls on the DRC to stop this aggression.”
However, DR Congo said the aircraft was attacked while flying in its home airspace.
“The DR Congo government strongly condemns and denounces the attack on its fighter plane by the Rwandan army in Congolese airspace and does not intend to let it go,” it said in a statement.
“The fighter jet was attacked as it began landing on the runway of Goma International Airport. It did not fly over Rwandan airspace.”
Noting that the aircraft landed without major material damage, the government said it “regards the attack as an act of aggression aimed only at sabotaging ongoing peace efforts in the framework of the Luanda and Nairobi talks.”
The incident is the latest to raise tensions among the two neighboring countries whose relations have been rocky in recent months over M23 rebels battling government troops in eastern Congo.
Fresh fighting erupted between government forces and M23 rebels Tuesday morning in eastern Congo in several areas in the territories of Masisi and Rutshuru near the town of Kitshanga located some 70 kilometers (43 miles) from North Kivu’s provincial capital Goma.
DR Congo accuses Rwanda of backing the rebels, a charge Rwanda denies.