36 Killed As Suspected Militia Attack Villages In DR Congo

 

Thirty-six people have been killed in a suspected militia attack in the eastern DR Congo region of Beni, where hundreds have died in violence since November, a local official said Wednesday.

Congolese troops have been carrying out a military operation on an armed group in the east of the country — long plagued by various militias — and militiamen have responded with a series of massacres against civilians.

“They were all hacked to death. This brings (the toll) to 36 bodies,” local Beni governor Donat Kibwana told AFP, updating casualties from Tuesday’s attack.

Officials had earlier reported 15 fatalities.

Two people with skull fractures caused by machetes have been admitted to the hospital in Oicha for surgery, an AFP reporter there said.

The main attack took place late Tuesday in Manzingi, a village 20 kilometres (12 miles) northwest from Oicha, while a pastor was also killed in nearby Eringeti.

According to a toll compiled by a civil society organisation, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), 265 people have now been killed in the Beni region since the army began its crackdown on the armed group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), on October 30.

The massacres seem to be a tactic by the ADF to frighten the population into silence, local commentators say.

The group has also disrupted operations to curb an outbreak of Ebola in North Kivu province.

Tuesday’s massacre occurred to the west of the ADF’s usual area of operations, which is closer to the Ugandan border.

The army offensive, unfolding in thick forest and jungle, has led to what the military say is the capture of the group’s headquarters and the killing of five of its six leaders.

Brutal militia

The ADF, blamed for the deaths of more than a thousand civilians in Beni since October 2014, began as an Islamist-rooted rebel group in Uganda that opposed Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

It fell back into the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 1995 during the Congo Wars and appears to have halted raids inside Uganda. Its recruits today are people of various nationalities.

UN experts estimated the ADF in 2018 to number around 450 fighters.

A report to the UN Security Council last week said the ADF seemed to follow an extreme Islamist ideology, but there is no information on whether the group had links with international jihadist groups.

The spate of massacres has become a major challenge for President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office a year ago last Friday.

In November, angry protests erupted in the city of Beni, the region’s administrative hub, as citizens accused the UN peacekeeping force in DR Congo of failing to protect them.

Tshisekedi, in his first state-of-the-nation address to Congress, last month said he had changed the army command in Beni and sent 22,000 troops to the region.

27 Murdered Victims Buried In DR Congo

People gather in Oicha, on November 29, 2019, as 27 victims of the latest massacre in the country’s volatile east were being buried with hundreds paying homage while lashing out at security forces for failing to stop attacks. 
Bienvenu-Marie BAKUMANYA / AFP

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo town of Oicha on Friday buried 27 victims of the latest massacre in the country’s volatile east, with hundreds paying homage while lashing out at security forces for failing to stop attacks.

Mourners gathered in silence around the tiny morgue of Oicha, located near the Ugandan border and east of the DRC town of Beni, the scene of repeated deadly strikes.

Workers wore face masks as they wrapped the decomposing corpses in shrouds. They were barefoot in line with local tradition out of respect for the deceased.

Wooden crosses marked the graves and many wept as the bodies were lowered.

During the mass funerals, gunfire broke out from the nearby bush but it was unclear who was firing.

“My neighbour, who was my son’s mother-in-law, had her throat slit and was then cut up,” said Kahindo Kamabu, a woman in her fifties.

“I am very sad but I’m not crying any more as I want to tell these murderers that we are strong and dignified despite our pain.”

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Janvier Kasahirio, the head of a local youth association, said: “We found the remains of our brothers in pieces,” adding that some of the victims had been burnt.

He said they found the bodies in the bush.

The victims were hacked to death with machetes on Wednesday, taking to 107 the number of people killed in and around Beni since November 5.

The vast majority of the killings have been carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia that has plagued the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east since the 1990s.

‘Chopped Up Like Meat’

“I recognised my aunt from her clothes,” said Rosette Kashauri.

“Her face was barely recognisable. Her body was chopped up like the meat one sells in the market. I am sad and angry,” she said.

The massacres have sparked protests against the local United Nations peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MONUSCO.

“It’s unthinkable that people kill the local population and that the young go to look for bodies while soldiers watch them,” said Moise Kakule.

On Friday, a DR Congo soldier was killed by civilians who mistook him for an ADF fighter, the army and a local official said.

The soldier opened fire as he saw local youth approaching him, before running out of ammunition, local leader Donat Kibwana added.

A general shutdown was observed in Oicha as well as in Goma, the main city in DRC’s east, in solidarity with the beleaguered residents of Beni and Oicha.

On Friday, the ADF released 12 hostages, including two women and some children, local residents said.

They said the released hostages carried back pamphlets exhorting locals to embrace Islam and stop cooperating with security forces.

Some said they had paid ransom to the ADF to secure the release of relatives.

“My four children were kidnapped by the ADF,” said 35-year-old Reagan Kimbu. “They were released against a payment of $4,500 (4,000 euros).”

The UN refugee agency meanwhile said there was an exodus of locals from Oicha to Beni, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) away.

“Alarming reports from the region suggest people being trapped and under threat from the armed groups, with daily reports of loss of life,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on Friday.

“Abductions and attacks on schools, health centres and indigenous communities are also on the rise,” it said.

“Information is difficult to verify, as the movement of humanitarian workers is restricted due to insecurity around the city and in the territory of Beni, as a result of violence.”

AFP