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Rwandan Rebels Attack Congo Government Minister, Spokesman Says

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May 9 (Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Minister of University and Higher Education escaped an attack by Rwandan rebels that left two people dead, government spokesman Lambert Mende said.

Rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda opened fire on a vehicle carrying Leonard Mashako Mamba near the town of Rutshuru in Congo’s eastern North Kivu province on May 7, killing his driver and a bodyguard, Mende said by phone today from Kinshasa, the capital.

“We don’t know if he was being targeted,” Mende said. The assailants stole the minister’s belongings, he said.

United Nations-backed military operations by Congo’s army against the rebel group in the east have helped reduce its numbers by at least 60 percent to 2,500 since 2009, according to the UN. Last year, a UN-run program demobilized 1,881 FDLR rebels, while 444 rebels surrendered to the UN between January and March of this year, according to the UN.

The army will pursue its operations against the rebels to force them to disarm and return to Rwanda or be resettled within Congo, Mende said.

Ethnic Hutu rebels first fled to eastern Congo in 1994 after the Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 ethnic-Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in a 100-day massacre. They formed a succession of rebel groups, including the FDLR.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Kavanagh in Kinshasa on Mkavanagh9@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.