Gunmen have killed up to eight people in an attack on a Congolese army training camp in the east, military and UN sources said, also warning of a possible attack on a key trading town nearby.
Congo’s army blamed the attack in Nyaleke, in North Kivu province, on fighters from the Mai Mai militia group and Ugandan rebels based in Congo, highlighting the patchwork of gunmen still operating in the vast country’s lawless east.
Between 20 and 30 fighters armed with automatic weapons attacked Nyaleke late on Saturday, and the violence continued until dawn on Sunday, the officials said.
“They killed eight people in the military camp including one (army) second lieutenant and one park ranger. They also wounded 14,” said Moussa Bemba, spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission in the nearby town of Beni.
Maj Sylvain Ekenge, spokesman for army operations in North Kivu, put the death toll at six, but he said the dead also included wives and children of the soldiers in the camp.
The attackers torched nearly 100 houses before making off with some hostages, he added.
Nyeleke is 10 km (6 miles) from Beni, a key trading town that has been spared much of the violence seen elsewhere.
However, Bemba said that UN peacekeepers and the Congolese authorities had decided to beef up security in the town.
“We need take care of the most urgent matter — there is a threat against Beni,” he said. “We have asked Jordanian (UN) peacekeepers to post tanks and armoured cars on Beni’s main roads and to conduct joint patrols with the army and police.”
The attack comes ahead of the UN Security Council trip to Congo in mid-May, which will seek to counter President Joseph Kabila’s desire to see the peacekeepers withdraw soon.
Kabila wants the mission, known as MONUC, to start withdrawing within months and the last blue helmet out in 2011. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed a slower three-year phased withdrawal.
The Mai Mai are a loose collection of local militia that have fought in Congo’s two wars since the mid-1990s. Although they are now supposed to have been integrated into the national army, many have not and are involved in crime and poaching.
Ekenge said they were aided in the attack by Ugandan ADF-NALU rebels, who have been based in Congo’s east for years.
Pic: Congolese troops