Kinshasa -

Two South African troops from the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been wounded after being caught in the crossfire between the army and rebels, officials said on Tuesday.

The two were wounded early on Monday in the restive eastern province of North Kivu after clashes erupted between the army and the Mai Mai Sheka militia, said a spokesman for the UN force (MONUSCO).

“The local population fled the fighting and others sought shelter at our base and that's how the South African contingent deployed, to protect the population,” Lieutenant Colonel Prosper Basse, a MONUSCO spokesman, told AFP.

Both men were evacuated to a hospital in North Kivu's regional capital of Goma and were in stable condition, he said.

It was not immediately clear if any civilians were killed or wounded in the clashes, which left one army soldier dead and around 20 wounded, he said.

The fighting lasted several hours and the area was quiet on Tuesday, he said.

MONUSCO has about 17 000 troops, deployed mainly in the chronically unstable but resource-rich east of DR Congo. - Sapa-AFP