Some 20 civilians were killed on Saturday in two separate attacks in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where fighting has resumed between the Congolese army and M23 rebels, local sources said Sunday.
In the Ituri province, the Codeco (Cooperative for the Development of Congo) militia, which claims to protect the Lendu tribe from the Hema tribe, is accused of attacking five villages in Mahagi territory on Saturday morning.
“So far we have counted 15 dead, mostly women, children and old people,” Arnold Lokwa, head of the Panduru district, told AFP.
In neighbouring North Kivu province, it was the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels, affiliated with the jihadist group Islamic State (EI), who are accused of killing at least nine people in the village of Nguli in Lubero territory.
The victims “were killed with knives and machetes,” a tenth person is seriously wounded and two children are missing,” Kambale Kamboso, head of the local village, told AFP.
The ADF is made up of Muslim rebels from Uganda who have gain infamous notoriety since the mid-1990s in eastern DRC, where they stand accused of having massacred thousands of civilians.
In the same province of North Kivu, but further south, fighting also resumed on Saturday between the army and M23 rebels in Masisi territory, northwest of the provincial capital Goma, after a few days of calm.
In a statement, the army accused the rebellion of attacking at least six of its positions and committing “recurrent violations of the ceasefire.”
Residents interviewed by telephone reported fighting in the evening in Bihambwe, not far from the mining town of Rubaya.
The M23 (“March 23 Movement”) comprises of Tutsi rebels, supported by Rwanda. According to Kinshasa and UN experts, M23 has seized large swathes of territory in North Kivu over the past year.
After several unfulfilled announcements of a cessation of hostilities, a ceasefire should have taken place on 7 March but has not been respected.
The fighting had, however, stopped for a few days this week while the M23 withdrew from villages where Burundian soldiers are now present after having been sent to the region by the Community of East African States (EAC).
The eastern provinces of the DRC have been plagued for nearly 30 years by violence from dozens of armed groups.