BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) - A group of Congolese soldiers who were seized last week by Angolan troops when they entered the Congo Republic have been freed, a senior local government official in Congo said.
A detachment of Angolan troops crossed into neighbouring Congo from Angola's oil-rich enclave of Cabinda and took up positions in several locations in Congo's Kimongo district, Congolese sources said.
The incident highlighted tensions around Cabinda, which belongs to Angola but is separated from the main part of the country by Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo Republic borders the enclave to the north.
The FLEC rebellion has fought a low-intensity guerrilla war there against Angola for decades.
"Our soldiers have been freed and are, at this moment, heading towards (the city of) Dolisie," Jacques Mouanda, head of the local government council in Congo's Niari administrative department, told Reuters.
He said the group had been released on Saturday but declined to give further details until the soldiers were debriefed by army officials upon their return.
Angola's ambassador in Brazzaville had previously said he was not aware of any Angolan troop movements inside Congo, and denied that his country's army had detained Congolese soldiers.
A senior Congolese officer, who confirmed on Thursday that troops sent to the area had been encircled and detained, would not say how many soldiers had been seized.
However, French broadcaster RFI, citing anonymous local sources, reported that the group numbered as many as 40 Congolese soldiers.
Angola, which possesses one of the region's most capable militaries, has in the past pursued FLEC separatists beyond its borders, notably inside Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has recently said he wanted to help secure peace and stability in the region through diplomacy rather than military intervention.
The country's last overseas military operation, a mission to reform the security sector in Guinea-Bissau, was cut short last year after the Bissau government asked the Angolans to leave.