Image: Rwandan soldiers march past a crowd
Finbarr O'Reilly  /  Reuters
Rwandan soldiers march past a crowd gathered to watch them head home across the border at Goma in eastern Congo on Wednesday.
updated 2/25/2009 1:37:42 PM ET 2009-02-25T18:37:42

Rwandan troops began pulling out of Congo on Wednesday, bringing to an end a joint military operation that temporarily saw the sworn enemies fighting for the same cause.

Congo allowed Rwandan troops to enter Congolese soil late last month in order to hunt down the remnants of an extremist Hutu militia accused of orchestrating the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis during Rwanda's 1994 genocide. At the end of the 100-day slaughter, the Hutu fighters fled across Congo's border, setting up bases in this country's forested hills.

Lt. Gen. John Numbi, who headed the operation, said the monthlong offensive had been a success, even if members of the militia were still at large.

"The enemy has not been completely wiped out, but their ability to operate has been greatly reduced," said Numbi, a Congolese, at a military parade marking the end of the operation.

He said 153 Hutu combatants were killed, 37 were captured and 103 were repatriated to Rwanda.

Rwanda has long accused Congo of offering refuge to the Hutu militia and twice invaded Congo in the 1990s, plunging the Central African nation into war. Congo, in turn, has accused Rwanda of funding a Tutsi-led rebel group. The group, based in eastern Congo, said its aim was to stamp out the Hutu extremists, but instead they have been accused of atrocities on Congolese civilians.

That Congo allowed Rwanda to enter its territory marked a major turning point. Analysts say one of the key reasons Congo acquiesced is because Rwanda promised to arrest Laurent Nkunda, the warlord heading the Tutsi rebel group. He was arrested Jan. 22 by the Rwandan military, two days after an estimated 4,000 Rwandan troops entered Congo.

Nkunda had long been rumored to be a puppet of the Rwanda's Tutsi-led government and the relationship between the two was detailed in a recent U.N. report.

More on: Laurent Nkunda

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