KINSHASA - UN gunships targeted a base of the Ugandan Muslim rebel group ADF-Nalu in the eastern DR Congo for the first time Saturday, the UN force said.
The Congolese army had in recent weeks taken the lead in the drive to root out ADF-Nalu, one of the oldest but lesser known armed organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A statement from MONUSCO, the UN mission in the country, said two attack helicopters struck an ADF base northeast of Beni at 1255 GMT.
Beni is a remote town in North Kivu, a restive resource-rich province that borders Rwanda and Uganda.
"This operation, conducted with great precision, helps achieve a clear goal: bringing an end to ADF's recent attacks against the civilian population," said MONUSCO chief Martin Kobler, quoted in the statement.
The FARDC regular army launched its offensive against ADF-Nalu on January 16 and announced in mid-February that it had inflicted severe losses on the rebels.
Backed by a newly-formed UN intervention brigade with an unprecedented offensive mandate, the Congolese army notched up a rare military victory against the M-23 Tutsi rebel group.
The ADF-Nalu was next on the list.
MONUSCO has vowed to help Kinshasa rid the region of the myriad rebel groups running amok in one of the continent's most impenetrable regions.
ADF-Nalu stands for Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda. It is one of the oldest but lesser known rebellions based in North-Kivu and is considered the only Islamist organisation in the region.
The Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group said in a report last year the rebel group had "shown remarkable resilience attributable to its geostrategic position, its successful integration into the cross-border economy and corruption in the security forces".
ADF-Nalu is led by Jamil Mukulu, a Christian convert to Islam, and has never really managed to take its fight against Yoweri Museveni's regime to Uganda.
Some observers have voiced concern that it could become a link in the growing network of radical Islamist groups in East Africa.
UN gunships strike ADF-Nalu rebels in Congo