The eastern DR Congo city of Beni on Monday closed its schools, markets and churches for 48 hours after three bomb attacks over the weekend sparked fears of further violence.
The attacks included the first targeting a Catholic Church building and the first suicide bombing in the region, which has declared a “state of siege” after a string of massacres carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia.
Beni Mayor Narcisse Muteba announced a curfew late Sunday, saying that “everyone should go inside because we have information that something else is being planned”.
On Monday Muteba ordered all schools, churches and markets closed for two days.
“I don’t want to see any crowds, but we are calling on everyone to remain calm,” he said in a statement.
Muteba, a police colonel who replaced the city’s civilian leader a few weeks ago, also asked that anyone wanting to enter Beni carry their identity papers.
The measures come after a makeshift bomb went off in a Catholic church in Beni on Sunday morning, injuring two women, followed just hours later by a suicide bombing outside a bar.
The day before, a bomb exploded next to a petrol station on the outskirts of Beni without causing any damage.
The army said that the suicide bomber was “a Ugandan citizen who went by the name Ngudi Abdallah, and was very active alongside his leader, the sinister Amigo,” an ADF commander.
The army asked Beni residents to “report any suspicious movement, to dissociate themselves from the armed groups and to rally behind the armed forces”.
– ‘Boom’ –
The attack at the church in predominantly Catholic Beni took place just an hour before a children’s confirmation ceremony was due to be held.
“I had just entered the church, I hadn’t even managed to sit down, I heard ‘boom’… Blood started flowing from my mouth,” one of the women wounded in the blast, Antoinette Kavira, told AFP from her hospital bed.
Beni is in the North Kivu province, one of two regions that President Felix Tshisekedi placed under a “state of siege” on May 6 in a bid to clamp down on militia violence.
The ADF is the deadliest of an estimated 122 armed militias that roam the mineral-rich east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, many of them a legacy of two regional wars that ran from 1996 to 2003.
Historically a Ugandan Islamist group, it has holed up in eastern DRC since 1995.
The ADF is accused of having killed 6,000 people since 2013, according to the Catholic episcopate.
And the Kivu Security Tracker monitor says it has killed more than 1,200 civilians in the Beni area alone since 2017.
In March, the United States said the ADF was linked to the Islamic State group.