Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 15 people in eastern DR Congo, local officials said, the latest massacre since the army launched a major offensive against rebels last month.
Democratic Republic of Congo’s army initiated the campaign, with support from UN peacekeepers, on October 30 to root out Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) fighters from dense forests near the Ugandan border.
As was the case during previous military operations against ADF, fighters retaliated by attacking civilians, killing more than 40 since last week, according to local civil society activists.
Attacks blamed by government on ADF killed hundreds of civilians since 2014.
The attacks on Friday in and around Mbau were carried out with bladed weapons, local officials said. Among the eight victims were six members of a single family.
Seven members of a Pygmy ethnic group living in the nearby forest were also killed, officials said. Their bodies were tied up and their throats cut.
“The rebels are attacking civilians to spread confusion and panic among the population,” said Donat Kibwana, regional administrator in Beni.
Mbau residents said it took hours for soldiers based nearby to respond, a common complaint after attacks.
Army officials were not immediately available for comment.
Researchers and rights groups say some Congolese soldiers and rebel groups participated in massacres since 2014 for motives related to competition for power in lawless zones dominated by militia groups.
Several previous attacks by ADF, founded in Uganda in 1995, were claimed by Islamic State, but the extent of the relationship is unclear. The ADF is not known to have publicly pledged loyalty to Islamic State.