At least 50 people have been killed by jihadist rebels who stormed two villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The army and a local civil rights group blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist armed group, for raiding the village of Tchabi and a camp for displaced people near Boga, close to the Uganda border.
The United Nations has deployed peace-keeping troops to help villagers, as research group Kivu Security Tracker (KST) counted the dead and wounded. Researchers said it was the worst violence in four years.
Albert Basegu, the head of a civil rights group in Boga, told Reuters by telephone that he had been alerted to the attack by the sound of cries at a neighbour’s house.
“When I got there I found that the attackers had already killed an Anglican pastor and his daughter was also seriously wounded,” Mr Basegu said.
- Read more: Inside the Allied Democratic Forces
The KST, which has mapped unrest in restive eastern DR Congo since June 2017, said on Twitter the wife of a local chief was among the victims.
It did not attribute blame for the killings.
“It’s the deadliest day ever recorded by the KST,” said Pierre Boisselet, the research group’s coordinator.
At least 20 civilians were killed in #Boga village and at least 19 in #Tchabi village (#Irumu territory, #Ituri) last night. Among the victims of the Tchabi attack was the wife of the chief of the Banyali-Tchabi chiefdom. #DRC pic.twitter.com/EOhRe3CchM
— Baromètre sécuritaire du Kivu (@KivuSecurity) May 31, 2021
Since the 1990s, the ADF rebellion has carried out brutal massacres, kidnappings and raids on villages.
In recent years, researchers have concluded that the rebels have adopted radical Islam and started flying a similar flag to that used by terror groups such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram.
In March, the United States labelled the ADF a foreign terrorist organisation.
It’s not clear how closely the group is linked to other Islamist militant networks.
What is certain is the rebels have been ramping up their violence in the past year. The United Nations said the group – which also indoctrinates children who are then used as soldiers – was believed to have killed more than 850 people in 2020.
Those deaths occurred during a spate of reprisal attacks on civilians after the country’s army began operations against ADF the year before.
President Felix Tshisekedi declared a state of siege in DR Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces on May 1 in an attempt to curb increasing attacks by militant groups.
Uganda announced earlier this month that it had agreed to share intelligence and coordinate operations against the rebels but that it would not be deploying troops in DR Congo.