Insurgents in eastern Congo fired shots at a UN helicopter on Saturday, raising fears that violence will return to the volatile region in Africa.
The attack follows a statement by the M23 militia threatening to strike any UN aircraft flying over its territory released in early October.
The unarmed UN helicopter came under fire as it flew a reconnaissance mission, known as MONUSCO, over the M23 stronghold of Rumangabo, in the mineral-rich northern Kivu province.
MONUSCO did not confirm whether the aircraft had been hit and no injuries were reported.
Negotiations between the rebels and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government restarted in September after M23 suffered a rare defeat at the hands of government forces in August.
However, talks have made little progress on ending the latest conflict in an area where fighting rooted in ethnicity and struggles over resources has cost millions of lives in the past two decades.
“M23 rebels will not prevent us from using the Congolese air space,” Martin Kobler, the head of MONUSCO, said in a statement. “We shall continue doing all in our power to defend civilian populations including by using force if necessary.”
Amani Kabashi, a M23 spokesperson, said: “MONUSCO is a belligerent in this conflict now. It is not neutral. If they want to be part of the conflict we'll take them as part of the conflict,”
“We only fired warning shots to show MONUSCO that what they're doing is not fair,” he added.
The group currently controls swathes of territory along Congo's border with Uganda and Rwanda.