Islamist militiamen killed at least 19 people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, stepping up attacks on civilians in response to a military campaign in border areas with Uganda, local officials said.
The assailants, who officials said belong to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group, kidnapped several people and torched a Catholic church during separate attacks 35 km apart.
The Congolese army offensive started three weeks ago near the Ugandan border. The ADF has been operating there for more than two decades and is one of dozens of rebel groups active in mineral-rich areas where civil wars resulted in millions of deaths at the turn of the century.
Several ADF attacks were claimed by Islamic State but the extent of their relationship remains unclear.
Army spokesman Mak Hazukay said the ADF killed at least seven people on the outskirts of Beni, adding two soldiers were wounded and several people were missing.
Donat Kibwana, administrator of Beni territory, said ADF fighters killed 12 people in Mavete village, where they burned a church and a pharmacy and kidnapped others.
At least 70 people have died since the army campaign began, according to Kivu Security Tracker, a research initiative mapping unrest in the region.
Violence by the ADF and other militias hinders efforts to contain an Ebola outbreak that killed more than two thousand people since last year.