File Photo: Burundian servicemen patrol near the capital Bujumbura (Photo: Reuters)
At least 100 rebels have been killed after a cross-border attack against the central African nation of Burundi from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a top military source told AFP Sunday.
A general in the Burundian army, speaking on condition that he not be named, said the attack by the unidentified rebel group had been defeated after five days of heavy fighting in the border area north of the capital Bujumbura.
"After five days of non-stop military operations, the armed group which attacked Burundi has been wiped out by our security forces. In total, we killed 105 of them and captured four, out of a total of the 121 who entered Cibitoke province from the DRCongo," the general said.
"We also seized a 60mm mortar, five rocket launchers, machine guns and more than 100 assault rifles," he said, adding the Burundian army had lost two soldiers.
There was no further confirmation of the claim, with the army declining to comment officially on the fighting while operations in the area were still in progress.
Burundian officials and witnesses said the group of unidentified rebels crossed into Burundi overnight Monday from DRCongo's eastern Kivu region, a chronically unstable and resource-rich area that is home to dozens of rebel groups.
A previous toll given on Wednesday put the toll at 35 dead, including 34 rebels and one government soldier.
Previous attacks in Burundi's border region have been claimed by a splinter faction of the National Liberation Forces (FNL). The main body of FNL -- a highly disciplined group notorious for singing hymns as they carried out attacks -- signed a peace deal with the Burundian government in 2009 and have since become a political party.
The rebels who still fight on have claimed a string of attacks this year, most recently in October when they claimed to have killed six soldiers, and vowed to "intensify" their raids ahead of presidential elections in June 2015. The group, however, have denied they were behind the latest attack.
Burundi, a small nation in Africa's Great Lakes region, emerged in 2006 from a brutal 13-year civil war and its political climate remains fractious ahead of presidential elections scheduled to take place this year.