DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The Congolese government spokesman says the military, backed by United Nations peacekeepers, has taken back a town in eastern Congo occupied by a Ugandan rebel group.

Lambert Mende said Thursday the army took back Kamango on Christmas Day, hours after it was seized by ADF-NALU, a rebel group founded in Uganda which is now making incursions into Congo. Mende said at least 22 people were killed in the operation, mostly civilians.

South African pilots belonging to a new U.N. brigade provided air support, bombing rebel positions.

For years, the Congolese and U.N. peacekeepers appeared powerless in the face of the numerous rebel groups ensconced in Congo. That changed this year with the creation of the U.N. brigade, which has an aggressive mandate allowing peacekeepers to hunt down the armed groups.