KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo's army has killed the commander of the Rwandan Hutu militia group FDLR who had been wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Gen. Sylvestre Mudacumura was gunned down overnight in Rutshuru territory in North Kivu province, army spokesman Gen. Richard Kasonga said in a statement, calling it a "real feat of the Congolese army."
Mudacumura was one of the most wanted men in Congo, where dozens of rebel groups are active, Kasonga said. He was accused of ordering or carrying out some of the worst forms of violence against the Congolese people, including rape, the spokesman said.
"His neutralization is a good action in the service of our people, so that they can live in peace," he told the United Nations-backed Radio Okapi.
Rwanda's government said the death brings good news for peace and security in the region.
"This is also a confirmation of the commitment of the new Congolese leadership in neutralizing negative forces in eastern (Congo)," Rwanda's state minister for foreign affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe told The Associated Press. New President Felix Tshisekedi, a former opposition leader, took office early this year in Congo after longtime leader Joseph Kabila stepped aside.
Some FDLR leaders are linked to perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which more than 800,000 people, ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were killed. The FDLR is made up mostly of Hutu refugees from Rwanda who took shelter in neighboring Congo after the genocide.
Kasonga appealed to other rebel groups in eastern Congo, and other members of the FDLR, to surrender or face the same fate as Mudacumura. Armed groups have been staging attacks in the mineral-rich region for decades.
Mudacumura had been under U.N. sanctions since 2005 for involvement in arms trafficking. The ICC arrest warrant was issued in 2012 on counts of war crimes in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu.
Omar Kavota, co-founder of the Congo-based Center for Studies of Peace and Defense of Human Rights, commended the army's action but said it must remain vigilant.
"Even if one cannot rejoice in the death of an individual, I still believe that the death of Mudacumura ??is beneficial for the peace and security of eastern Congo. His death surely weakens the Rwandan FDLR rebellion," Kavota said, adding that the act brings some justice for victims.
But he warned that the FDLR "will not hesitate to avenge the death of their commander. They must know that Mudacumura's death is a loss in the ranks of the FDLR but does not kill the rebellion."
Associated Press writer Ignatius Ssuuna in Kigali, Rwanda contributed.
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