Angola denies Congo incursion, says lost troops entered its territory

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2013 2:36 PM

LUANDA (Reuters) - Angola's Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti said on Monday that Congo Republic soldiers had got lost and stumbled across the border, contradicting Congolese accusations that Angolan forces had invaded its territory and seized its soldiers.

A senior Congolese government official on Sunday said a group of his country's soldiers had been freed after troops who had crossed from Angola's oil-rich enclave of Cabinda seized them.

Chikoti denied this was the case.

"There was never any incursion (by Angola), there were Congolese troops who got lost in Angolan territory, they met our troops and have now been returned to their country," Chikoti told reporters.

"Possibly what will be needed is for the two countries to keep working to ensure the border line is visible to everyone so this kind of incident doesn't happen again," he added.

The incident highlighted tensions around remote Cabinda, which belongs to Angola but is separated from the main part of the country by Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo Republic borders the enclave to the north.

Cabinda is heavily militarized as the well-equipped Angolan army has fought a separatist rebellion in the enclave for decades. It has in the past pursued the rebels, known by their movement's name "FLEC", beyond its borders, notably inside Democratic Republic of Congo.

Asked if diplomatic ties between Luanda and Brazzaville had been affected, Chikoti said: "The people (soldiers) have been handed over and maybe a Congolese mission will come to Luanda in the next days so we can continue to work on this matter."

(Reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Mike Collett-White)