Terrorists killed at least 18 people and torched a church in a village in eastern Congo on Wednesday, a civil rights group. The local committee said, blaming an Islamist terrorist group operating in the area.
The army confirmed the attack on Baeti village in North Kivu province, around 20 km (12 miles) west of Oicha, but declined to give a death toll.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group active in eastern Congo since the 1990s, has killed more than 1,000 civilians since the start of 2019, according to U.N. figures, despite repeated military campaigns aimed at destroying it.
“We have a provisional death toll of 18 people killed atrociously,” said Kinos Katuho, president of a local civil rights group.
“It creates pain in our hearts, a total panic in the village,” said Masisa Mushogoro, head of a development committee in Baeti. “We don’t know if tomorrow the ADF will come back here again.”
Authorities have accused the armed group of attacking the main prison in Beni’s city on Oct. 20, releasing more than 1,300 inmates, including an unknown number of militiamen and their own fighters.
Reprisal attacks against civilians have increased sharply since the army began a counter-insurgency operation against the ADF a year ago, dislodging it from several bases near the Ugandan border.
ADF combatants dispersed into small groups, fled into other areas, burned down entire villages, destroyed health centers and schools, and kidnapped men, women, and kids. The violence could constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to the U.N.