Islamic State claimed fighters from its Central Africa Province affiliate attacked military bases in Mavivi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while the Congolese army said more than 20 Allied Democratic Forces fighters had been killed in nearby Ngite.
ISIS in a Thursday, May 30 statement claimed ISCAP fighters attacked three “barracks of the Congolese army and the United Nations crusader forces” near Mavivi. It said the forces were preparing to attack ISCAP positions, and that clashes led to “dozens” killed and injured, while the “Mujahideen returned to their positions safely.”
A later release from ISIS propaganda agency Amaq said that “Islamic State fighters today attacked 3 military bases located on Road No. 4” near Beni, clashing with Congolese army and U.N. MONUSCO peacekeeping forces for three hours. It said “dozens” were killed and wounded before the ISCAP fighters withdrew from “the attack area near the city’s airport.”
Mavivi town is in Beni territory of North Kivu province, and Ngite is just to the north. Mavivi airport, also known as Beni airport, is on the south side of the town, just off the N4 road to Beni city which is around 10 km south. MONUSCO, which has a base at the airport, rehabilitated the runway in 2016.
Amaq said the attack was to counter a mobilization of Congolese army and U.N. forces in three bases “in preparation for an attack on the positions of fighters of the Islamic state in the northeast of the country.”
MONUSCO spokesperson Florence Marchal told The Defense Post that peacekeepers were not targeted in the initial attack, but did respond to the incident.
Marchal said that suspected ADF insurgents attacked an FARDC camp near Beni (North Kivu) earlier today and the mission “deployed two contingents in response to protect civilians.”
“U.N. Peacekeepers subsequently engaged the attackers, resulting in one South African peacekeeper injured,” Marchal said, adding that there were “an unconfirmed number of fatalities on the side of ADF.”
Around 3,000 troops are deployed to the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade based in Beni. Its primary goal is countering armed groups including ADF.
A spokesperson for the armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) said that 26 Allied Democratic Forces militants were killed in “victorious operations” in Ngite, which is just outside Mavivi.
“This morning at 5 a.m. in the Ngite locality, the Armed Forces of the DRC conducted victorious operations against the ADF terrorists and found 26 ADF neutralized. Our army is determined to conduct operations to restore peace,” Major General Leon-Richard Kasonga told reporters, Actualite.cd reported.
“Early this morning, the ADF attacked our position in the town of Ngite-Mavivi, our men reacted and inflicted a heavy loss in their ranks,” Kasonga later told AFP.
U.N.-funded Radio Okapi reported that MONUSCO peacekeepers alongside FARDC personnel had repelled an ADF attack on the Ngite headquarters of the first battalion of the 32nd brigade of FARDC rapid reaction units.
It said that a second group of ADF militants positioned on Road No. 4 to intercept reinforcements were engaged by FARDC and MONUSCO personnel in heavy clashes that lasted around an hour.
According to Radio Okapi, a military spokesperson said the bodies of 23 militants had been recovered, along with 20 weapons, but did not mention MONUSCO or FARDC casualties.
The bodies of 23 militants were later displayed outside Beni town hall and thousands of people came to view them, Acutalite.cd reported.
Amaq also released an image of ISCAP fighters captioned “Islamic State fighters camped in northeastern Congo,” dated May 30, but the militants pictured appear to be in the same location and wearing the same clothing as an image published in issue 179 of the weekly ISIS newsletter Al-Naba that was released on April 25.
In April, ISIS formally recognized its Central Africa Province in Democratic Republic of Congo, when its centrally controlled media outlets began to attribute attacks to ISCAP, and during his first video appearance in five years, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was seen viewing a document entitled “Wilayat Central Africa.”
There was earlier evidence that ISIS had ties to the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan-led but DR Congo-based militant group that mainly operates in the border area of North Kivu province, but it is unclear if the new ISIS affiliate is the ADF, a splinter group, or a different organization.
Formed in 1995, the ADF is thought to have killed at least 700 civilians and more than 20 U.N. peacekeepers, but although it is often blamed for killings, robberies and kidnappings, numerous armed groups operate in the region and it is often difficult to be certain who the true assailants are.
The majority of around a dozen ISIS-claimed attacks have been in the Kamango area, around 50 km east of Mavivi, near the border with Uganda.
This post was updated on May 30.