At least 23 civilians were killed in an attack in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the night between Sunday and Monday.
According to local sources, the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) is responsible for the violence.
"Twenty-four persons, including six women, were killed in this raid by the ADF" in the village of Makugwe, in the Beni region of North Kivu, announced Roger Wangeve, president of the local civic movement.
Provincial deputy Saidi Balikwisha, who was at the scene, spoke of 23 deaths. According to Wangeve, seventeen of the victims were in a bar having a drink.
"The ADF executed them all," Wangeve said. In addition, at least seven houses were burnt down, three pharmacies and 11 stores were looted.
"It is not yet clear how many persons were kidnapped," he said. “We condemn this violence and ask the question, ‘How is it possible that civilians are killed just a few meters from the military camp," Wangeve added.
Colonel Charles Omeonga, in charge of the Beni area, responded to the claims by saying his soldiers were "looking for the enemy" who he said was "hiding among the population."
- EU funding of Rwandan military called into question amid DRC violence
- UN discovers nearly 50 dead in mass graves in the DRC's Ituri province
- DRC: France openly accuses Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels
The ADF proclaim themselves to be a branch of the Da'esh (IS) in Central Africa, and are accused of several attacks in eastern DRC and Uganda. The Ugandan and Congolese armies launched a joint operation against the ADF in 2021, but have so far failed to contain the violence.
M23 rebels not retreating
The news comes after a renewed explosion of violence in the same region at the hands of an M23 rebel group insurgency, who were issued orders to retreat by 15 January 2023 under international pressure.
However, reports suggest there is still an M23 presence in the region, particularly in the Virunga National Park, where a rebel encampment at Mount Sabinyo is seen as a danger for the park's famous gorillas.