In the early hours of Saturday, a suspected drone attack believed to be conducted by M23 rebels caused significant damage to both military and civilian aircraft at Goma airport in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as confirmed by Congolese military sources.

Goma International Airport is utilized by the Air Force of the DRC and MONUSCO peacekeeping forces for their military operations against M23 rebel groups. MONUSCO is the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC.

The DR Congo military acknowledged the recent attack, attributing the explosions to ongoing military operations against the M23 rebel group. Lieutenant Colonel Ndjike Kaiko Guillaume, the military spokesperson in North Kivu province, informed reporters that a drone shell fell at Goma International Airport on Saturday, February 17, around 2 a.m. local time (midnight GMT).

U.S. Department of State Press Statement- Escalation of Hostilities in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

Over the weekend, the U.S. State Department released a statement condemning the attack by M23, as well as Rwanda’s support for the group.

“The United States strongly condemns the worsening violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) caused by the actions of the Rwanda-backed, U.S.- and UN-sanctioned M23 armed group, including its recent incursions into the town of Sake.  This escalation has increased the risk to millions of people already exposed to human rights abuses, including displacement, deprivation, and attacks.  We call on M23 to immediately cease hostilities and withdraw from its current positions around Sake and Goma and in accordance with the Luanda and Nairobi processes.  The United States condemns Rwanda’s support for the M23 armed group and calls on Rwanda to immediately withdraw all Rwanda Defense Force personnel from the DRC and remove its surface-to-air missile systems, which threaten the lives of civilians, UN and other regional peacekeepers, humanitarian actors, and commercial flights in eastern DRC.”

South Africa Sending Additional Troops

On Wednesday, South Africa announced its decision to deploy 2,900 troops to aid the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in countering the armed group.

The DRC has been engaged in a prolonged conflict with numerous rebel factions that surfaced in its resource-abundant eastern region following the Rwandan genocide. The M23, which splintered from the DRC army in 2012, asserts that it is fighting to protect ethnic Congolese Tutsis who encounter tribal discrimination in the DRC.