Ten civilians were killed Tuesday night in an attack attributed to the Ugandan rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia 60 kilometres north of Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, local sources said Wednesday.
“The ADF raided the town of Kokola at about 20:00 (18:00 GMT), killing ten civilians, some by stabbing and some by gunfire,” Donat Kibwana, administrator of Beni territory, told AFP.
The Democratic Republic of Congo armed forces last week, announced “large-scale” operations in the Beni region, the scene of five-year civilian massacres and an Ebola outbreak that started on August 1, 2018.
The army spokesman in the region, Major Mak Hazukay, told reporters that, “the ADF are trapped by the fire of the Congolese army, that is why they seek to sow terror among the civilian population.”
He further stated, “we will continue our work, however, we condemn what happened to our compatriots in Kokola,” he added, declining to comment on the number of casualties suffered in the militiamen’s attack.
Two civil society officials expressed regret that military operations are only concentrated around the city of Beni, which is also home to a base of the United Nations Mission in Congo (Monusco).
“Why are military operations concentrated only around the city of Beni? Whereas, it is the agglomerations of the territory that are much more targeted by the ADF,” said the president of civil society, Noella Katongerwaki.
“We welcome the launch of military operations but we ask that this be done on the three axes: central, south and north,” added his colleague Teddy Kataliko.
“These operations were launched only in the centre, around Beni city, and we feel that we are leaving a corridor in the north where we have observed the movements of ADF from east to west to escape,” he said.
The Ugandan rebels ADF, fighting against President Yoweri Museveni, retreated to eastern DRC in the 1990s.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for some of their attacks since the beginning of the year, though there is no compelling evidence linking the ADF with the “Islamic State – Central African Province” group.
A UN report proposes a three-year withdrawal plan for some 16,000 peacekeepers deployed in the DRC. The Security Council is expected to extend Monusco’s mandate in the coming days.
Monusco “will continue to protect Congolese towns and people, but also it must be at the request of the Congolese armed forces, it will be able to provide support of various kinds,” said army spokesman General Leon. Kasonga at the launch of operations in the Beni region.