Two people were killed in clashes with police in eastern Congo after protesters in Beni set fire to the mayor’s office and several UN buildings in anger at a new round of violence by suspected Islamist rebels.
Rebels believed to be Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed eight people in an overnight raid police said stoking fury at perceived inaction of both government and the UN peacekeeping mission.
Police said protesters torched the mayor’s office. A tweet by police showed flames shooting from a window and thick black smoke above.
Protesters then marched to the offices of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO), said Teddy Kataliko, a Beni civil society leader.
“Several offices at MONUSCO headquarters were set on fire and looted,” Kataliko said. “Residents demand withdrawal of MONUSCO from Beni because of inaction of UN forces.”
Two people were killed by gunfire in the protests, Beni police commander Safari Kazingufu told Reuters.
The UN said a civilian and a policeman died and some police offices were vandalised.
“We do understand the anger and frustration of the population but ask for understanding that attacking UN or local facilities weakens the Congolese army’s operations against the ADF,” said Matthias Gillman, a UN spokesman.
The UN mission is not participating in the army’s offensive against the ADF launched late last month, he added, other than providing intelligence and medical assistance.
ADF fighters killed more than 70 civilians in reprisal attacks since operations started, according to research group Kivu Security Tracker.
“It is scandalous civilians are dying day in, day out while local police and nearby UN peacekeepers stay put in their camps,” said Seif Magango of rights group Amnesty International.
The dense jungle terrain makes it difficult to protect remote villages, especially when the ADF tend to attack silently at night, the United Nations said.
“We can’t put a peacekeeper behind every Congolese,” Gillman said.
Violence by the ADF and a patchwork of militias and criminal bands near Congo’s borders with Uganda and Rwanda hampered efforts to eradicate a more than year-long Ebola outbreak, the second deadliest on record.
The ADF, an Islamist militant group founded in Uganda, operated in eastern Congo for two decades. Some ADF attacks were claimed by Islamic State, although the extent of any relationship between the groups is not clear.