At least 21 people have been killed in a massacre suspected to have been committed by militants from the Islamist ADF group in conflict-wracked northeast DR Congo, a local official said Saturday.
The ADF fighters first attacked a rival group of Congolese militia members before killing inhabitants in the village of Lisasa, with the “preliminary death toll” put at 21, according to local administrator Donat Kibwana from the Beni territory of North Kivu province.
The toll was confirmed by the head of the Buliki area, where Lisasa is located.
A local NGO called Cepadho said in a statement that of the 21 killed, 15 were women.
All three sources said more people were kidnapped, a health centre was ransacked, homes set on fire and a Catholic church desecrated.
The ADF, which originated in the 1990s as a Ugandan Muslim rebel group, is one of more than 100 militias that plague the eastern provinces of the vast Democratic Republic of Congo.
The group has killed nearly 600 civilians since the army launched a crackdown on it last November, according to an unofficial count.
The massacres are apparently reprisals for the army operation — or are designed to warn locals against collaborating with the authorities.
The ADF has never claimed responsibility for attacks. But since April 2019, several of its assaults have been claimed by the so-called Islamic State’s Central Africa Province, with the claims of responsibility sometimes including factual mistakes
Islamic State link
The latest attack comes only days after the ADF killed 19 people in the remote village of Baeti on Wednesday night. The village’s church was torched, as were about 40 homes.
“During the month of October, the ADF has targeted Christian churches. This is not insignificant,” Cepadho head Omar Kavota told AFP.
Islamic State on Friday claimed responsibility for the Baeti attack.
On October 21, hundreds of prisoners escaped from a jail in Beni in an attack by gunmen. Police blamed the ADF, but the Islamic State again took credit.
– Aid workers kidnapped –
Elsewhere in eastern DRC on Saturday, a humanitarian group and a local official said four people including two aid workers had been kidnapped for ransom.
The four were returning from the Mulongwe refugee camp when they were snatched on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, Jean Lundimu, head of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA), told AFP.
Lundimu said the kidnapped were two aid workers and a supplier — all Congolese — as well as a Burundian.
They were ambushed on Friday in the Mutambala area of South Kivu province’s Fizi region.
ADRA is the humanitarian agency of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“Only the driver has been released. Negotiations are ongoing, we are following the situation closely,” Lundimu said.
Kidnappings in the area are not uncommon. In mid-October a driver for another international organisation was kidnapped before being released after a ransom was paid, local official Moutard Wa Mlendela said.
South Kivu, like other eastern provinces of the DRC, a vast country the size of continental western Europe, remains in the grip of armed groups, many of them claiming to defend ethnic communities.
According to UN figures, 1,315 people were killed in the first half of 2020, more than triple the toll of 416 over the same period last year.