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At least 20 dead in new DR Congo massacre

At least 20 people have been killed in a new massacre in DR Congo’s eastern province of Ituri, a respected monitor said on Monday, adding that the notorious ADF militia were suspected.

The attack took place overnight in the village of Bwanasura in Irumu territory, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST) said on Twitter.

David Beiza, head of the Red Cross in Irumu, said volunteers from his organisation “have counted 36 bodies” at the site of the massacre.

Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province are struggling with attacks by armed groups, many of them a legacy of wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east.

KST said the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) — a group that the so-called Islamic State describes as its affiliate — was suspected to have been behind the killing.

Beiza said, “ADF rebels arrived around eight pm. They moved calmly. Fortunately, many residents were able to flee.”

Dieudonne Malangay, a civil society leader in the district of Walese Vonkutu said the army was “late” in responding. “Bullets are still flying” in the area, he said.

The ADF has been blamed for massacres, kidnappings and looting dating back to 2013, with a toll in lives estimated in the thousands.

Ituri and North Kivu have been under a “state of siege” since May last year — a measure placing army chiefs in positions of authority to speed up efforts to improve security.

The ADF was also targeted in a joint operation launched last November by government and Ugandan forces following bomb attacks in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

The operation, which was due to end on May 31, has been extended by two months.

– ADF bloodshed –

Despite the crackdown, the ADF’s attacks have continued — experts in March said the group had moved further inland after coming under pressure at the border.

At least 1,300 civilians have died in Irumu and in Beni in North Kivu since the “state of siege” was introduced, according to a reported by local elected officials.

In March, at least 30 people were killed by suspected rebels in North Kivu and more than 50 people died in a two-day assault on villages in Irumu.

In May, at least 42 people were killed in ADF-attributed attacks at Bulongo and Beu-Manyama in North Kivu.

The ADF is historically a Ugandan rebel coalition whose biggest group comprised Muslims opposed to President Yoweri Museveni.

Established in eastern DRC in 1995, the group became the deadliest of scores of outlawed forces in the deeply troubled region.

Since April 2019, some ADF attacks in eastern DRC have been claimed by the Islamic State, which describes the group as its local offshoot, the Islamic State Central Africa Province.

The United States last year placed the ADF on its list of “terrorist” organisations linked to IS.

– Troubled region –

More than 120 armed groups roam eastern DRC.

Ituri is also suffering from ethnic attacks led by CODECO militia, which claims to represent the Lendu community against the rival Hema group and the security forces.

In North Kivu, bloody clashes have erupted between government forces and the M23, a primarily Congolese Tutsi group.

In South Kivu, six people died on April 30 when fighting flared between groups from the Banyamulenge, a Congolese Tutsi community, against an ethnic militia called the Biloze Bishambuke Self-Defence Force, or FABB. AFP