Villagers killed in eastern DR Congo, Islamist militants suspected

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Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 53 villagers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province this week, a local official said.

Authorities blamed the Tuesday and Wednesday attacks on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group active in eastern Congo since the 1990s.

The militia killed more than 1 000 civilians since the start of 2019, according to UN figures, despite repeated military campaigns to destroy it.

On Tuesday night into Wednesday, ADF fighters attacked the villages Tsabi and Tondoli, south of Bunia, officials said.

Etienne Babawela, a local village chief, said 53 bodies were discovered to date.

“We don’t know how many deaths there will be tomorrow,” he said. “It’s as if they had time on Tuesday and Wednesday while they were killing people.”

The UN says violence attributed to the ADF soared since the start of the year, following the launch of a large-scale army campaign. In response, the ADF abandoned bases, split into smaller, more mobile groups and took revenge on civilians.

Several attacks attributed to the ADF have been claimed by Islamic State, although researchers and analysts say there is a lack of evidence linking the two groups.

Violence committed by a constellation of more than 100 armed groups forced over half a million people in the east of the country to flee their homes since the start of the year.

DR Congo’s military and security forces also committed grave violations, including killings and sexual violence, according to the UN.