Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 22 civilians with knives and machetes in an overnight raid on villages near Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official said.
Just over three weeks ago government declared martial law in North Kivu and Ituri, two provinces bordering Uganda, in an attempt to stem increasing bloodshed.
A four-month-old baby was found alive on the back of a victim, one of seven children from the same family apparently orphaned in the latest violence in villages east of Beni.
“They gave the baby to me to feed because she was crying,” the woman’s sister Kavira Mwisha said.
“I call on government to end this war.”
Jean-Paul Katembo, head of the Bulongo commune, said the known death toll was 22. More villagers are believed kidnapped, he said, blaming the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militia active in eastern Congo since the 1990s.
In Bulongo village, puddles of red blood stained the street, scattered with single shoes, a ring of keys and other personal items lost during the attack.
Elsewhere, a group of men hacked graves to bury victims as villagers stood by and sang in mourning.
More than 1 200 civilians have been killed in Beni territory since November 2019, according to the Kivu Security Tracker. That was when the army began an operation aimed at ending the ADF insurgency.
The offensive uprooted the ADF from bases and it split into smaller groups. The armed group responded stepping up reprisal attacks against civilians.
On May 17 Uganda announced it agreed to share intelligence and co-ordinate operations against the rebels, but would not deploy troops in DR Congo.