Islamist rebels are suspected of killing at least 11 civilians in an attack in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said, adding to some 1,000 civilians killed there in similar attacks since 2014.
The civilians were killed by rebels from a Ugandan Islamist group called the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) during a raid on Beni late on Tuesday, Mayor Nyonyi Bwanakawa told Reuters.
The Centre of Study for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights, a local activist group, said ADF rebels killed 11 civilians, mostly with machetes and hatchets.
Government and the United Nations blame the massacres near Beni since 2014, most carried out with crude weapons, on the ADF but independent experts say some Congolese soldiers have been involved.
Beni is one of several hotspots in eastern and central Congo where mounting violence raised fears the country could slide back into civil war.
Militia violence has spiked since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his mandate in 2016. It is unclear if a presidential vote to replace him will be held this December as scheduled.
Local army spokesman Mak Hazukay said the military attacked armed groups on Tuesday and troops were now targeting ADF strongholds in Virunga National Park, near the Uganda border.
Congo and Uganda launched a joint military offensive against the ADF in January after the group was blamed for killing 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers in December.
The United Nations last month expressed concern for civilians caught in the midst of the campaign, saying nearly 370,000 people could be forced to flee.
Tuesday’s attack came the same day the UN Security Council renewed for a year its Congo peacekeeping mission, first deployed during a 1998-2003 war that killed millions of people, most from hunger and disease.