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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

War NearsBetween Zaire, Rwanda

CYANGUGU, Rwanda -- Zaire and Rwanda moved closer to war on Wednesday after two days of trading artillery fire across their border and a Rwandan military sortie into Zairean territory.

Rwandan Vice President and Defense Minister Paul Kagame told a news conference in the capital Kigali that Rwanda would be forced to respond if faced with what he termed "Zairean aggression."

"If Zaire brings the war to us, we shall fight Zaire. That is not a big problem for me. We are ready to fight even though we seek no war with Zaire," said Kagame.

Asked whether Rwanda was edging closer to war with Zaire, Kagame replied: "Going by the declarations made by Zaire there is every indication that we are going in that direction."

Later, Rwandan Lieutenant-Colonel Firmin Kagame told reporters in this border town he sent a "good-sized" force of troops into Zaire after nightfall on Tuesday in retaliation for Zairean firing into Rwanda.

"After they hit our territory and injured and killed our people and hit civilians, we were forced to retaliate," the commander said.

He said that Zairean mortar fire into Cyangugu had hit the military barracks Tuesday. Rwanda's vice president spoke of several dead in the town.

Zaire, a giant country at the heart of Africa, has long been in chaos, but the latest crisis in its eastern borderlands is seen as potentially the most far-reaching in its 36-year history as an independent state.

President Mobutu Sese Seko, whose strong-arm tactics have helped to keep his country together, is ill and in a Swiss clinic, recovering from cancer surgery.