Congolese forces killed 26 rebels from a group thought to be linked to Islamic State while repelling an attack in east Congo’s Ebola zone, the army said.
The shootout took place in a village near Beni, where more than a dozen different militia groups and associated armed gangs operate and epicentre of Democratic Republic of Congo’s worst ever Ebola epidemic.
Army spokesman for east Congo, General Leon-Richard Kasonga, said insurgents from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacked a position in Ngite village and soldiers returned fire and pursued them.
“Twenty-six rebels were neutralised by the army and their bodies recovered,” he told journalists in Goma.
The ADF has never claimed allegiance to Islamic State, but witnesses said the Congolese group carried out an attack last month in nearby Bovata IS claimed.
The jihadist group described that attack as its first in what it called the “Central Africa Province” of the “Caliphate” – the name it gave to areas of Syria and Iraq it occupied for several years from 2014.
The ADF, originally a Ugandan Salafist-inspired extremist group, operates along the Congo/Uganda border. Rival armed groups remain active in pockets of eastern Congo long after the official end of a 1998-2003 war in which millions died, mostly from hunger and disease.
Insecurity around Beni is undermining efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, which has killed close to 1,300 people since August. Militiamen attacked a hospital in Butembo last month and killed a Cameroonian doctor working for the World Health Organisation (WHO).