Suspected militiamen killed nine civilians in an attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled east, government officials and the military said on Tuesday, December 11.
The killings occurred overnight in the town of Oicha, in the Beni region, local administrator Donat Kibwana told AFP.
The assailants were suspected to be members of the Allied Democratic Forces, an armed group blamed for hundreds of killings since 2014.
“They entered Oicha late at night, they pillaged and made off with farm animals. We lost nine people in the attack,” Kibwana said.
The toll was confirmed separately by military spokesman Mak Hazukay.
“The ADF got around our position and carried out their dirty work in eastern Oicha … there are nine civilians dead,” he said.
Local teacher Prospere Kasereka said “the ADF arrived in my area around 7:30 p.m. They started looting, smashing down doors and firing guns.”
He added: “I fled when they got in my house. I saw the bodies of nine inhabitants this morning.”
The Allied Democratic Forces militia was created in 1995 by Ugandan Muslim rebels to oppose the government led by President Yoweri Museveni who was seen as hostile to Muslims after they were forced out of Uganda by the army.
It operates in the border area in the DRC’s North Kivu province, an area where other armed groups are also active. The government has often blamed the ADF for killings, robberies and kidnappings, but numerous other armed groups operate in the region and sometimes it is unclear who the true assailants are.
The ADF is thought to have killed at least 700 civilians and more than 20 United Nations peacekeepers.
In the past month, 47 deaths in Beni have been attributed to the ADF, according to an AFP toll.
The Democratic Republic of Congo army and troops deployed with the U.N. peacekeeping mission MONUSCO began an operation against the group in mid-November. Eight U.N. peacekeepers and 12 DRC troops died in a clash with ADF militants near Kididiwe during the joint operation.
The ADF was blamed for the deaths of 17 people who were killed in two attacks in Beni region on December 7.
The violence has cast a shadow over efforts to roll back an outbreak of Ebola in eastern DRC and could hamstring efforts to hold presidential and legislative elections in the region on December 23, the U.N. says.