Suspected militiamen killed ten civilians in a fresh attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled east, civil and military sources said Tuesday.
The massacre occurred overnight in the town of Oicha, in the Beni region, local administrator Donat Kibwana told AFP.
The assailants were suspected members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group blamed for hundreds of killings since 2014.
“They entered Oicha late at night, they pillaged and made off with farm animals. We lost nine people in the attack,” Kibwana said, adding that two others were reported missing.
The toll was confirmed separately by military spokesman Mak Hazukay.
“The ADF got around our position and carried out their dirty work in eastern Oicha… there are nine civilians dead,” he said.
But Noella Muliwavyo, the head of the leading local civic group, later said: “We have just counted 10 bodies,” adding that the attackers had used knives and guns.
Local teacher Prospere Kasereka said “the ADF arrived in my area around 7.30 pm. They started looting, smashing down doors and firing guns.”
He added: “I fled when they got in my house. I saw the bodies of nine inhabitants this morning.”
The ADF is a shadowy Islamist-rooted group that arose in western Uganda in 1995 under the leadership of Jamil Mukulu, a Christian turned Muslim.
Forced out of Uganda, it operates in the border area in the DRC’s North Kivu province, an area where other armed groups are also active.
It has been blamed for recruiting and using child soldiers, killing hundreds of civilians since 2014, as well as 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers who died in an attack in December 2017.
In the past month, 48 deaths in Beni have been attributed to the ADF, including seven UN peacekeepers who were killed in an operation against the group, according to an AFP toll.
The violence has cast a shadow over efforts to roll back an outbreak of Ebola in eastern DRC and could hamstring efforts to hold presidential and legislative elections in the region on Dec. 23, the UN says.