KINSHASA, 20 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - The governor of Congo's South Kivu Province, Didas Kaningini, said on Monday that 48 dissident soldiers who were arrested recently as they returned from exile to the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had escaped from a jail.
"They escaped on Saturday," Kaningini said on Monday. "They forced open the door of the prison in a military camp in Ruhambo."
The camp is some 120 km south of the province capital, Bukavu.
Kaningini said they escaped with weapons. They had been arrested on 13 September while crossing the border from Burundi, carrying weapons and communication equipment.
The army said they were part of a dissident faction in the DRC army led by former Gen Laurent Nkunda and Col Jules Mutebusi who launched an attack South Kivu in May 2004, temporarily capturing Bukavu.
The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) said it could not confirm the identity of the dissidents. "They escaped before we arrived in Ruhambo [to identify them," Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, the MONUC spokeswoman in Bukavu, said.
She said MONUC had pledged to support government efforts to recapture the escapees.
Kaningini said the escapees had fled back east in the direction of Minembwe Highlands. He said the army had sent 250 soldiers in pursuit.