16 civilians killed in suspected ADF attack in DR Congo

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Suspected members of a notorious Islamist militia killed 16 people as they were returning from a weekly market in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), local and medical sources said Friday.

The dead from the ambush on Thursday evening included six women and a child, all of whom were shot, Jerome Munyambethe, head of the hospital in the town of Oicha, told AFP.

"We have 16 bodies in the hospital morgue," town mayor Nicolas Kikuku said.

He said another nine wounded were being treated at the hospital.

The attack occurred on a highway between the towns of Maimoya and Chani-chani, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the city of Beni in North Kivu province.

The Oicha region is a hotbed of attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the deadliest of scores of armed militias in the mineral-rich eastern DRC.

"The ambush is the work of ADF roaming the area. They also fired a rocket," said Lewis Saliboko, a representative of grassroots groups in Oicha.

"It's the ADF enemy which yet again has attacked peace-loving people," said Kikuku.

The DRC's Catholic Church says the ADF -- historically a Ugandan Islamist group that has holed up in the region since 1995 -- has massacred around 6,000 civilians since 2013.

A respected US-based monitor of violence in eastern DRC, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST) blames it for more than 1,200 deaths in the Beni area alone since 2017.

The toll has risen sharply since 2019, when the militia appears to have become more radicalised.

In March, the United States said the ADF was linked to the Islamic State group and identified its leader as Seka Musa Baluku.

North Kivu and the neighbouring province of Ituri were placed under a so-called state of siege on May 6 in a move aimed at stepping up the fight against armed groups.

President Felix Tshisekedi replaced senior civilian officials there with army and police officers.

But Saliboko complained that the new measures had failed to curb the attacks.

"What is the point of this state of siege when we continue to have massacres?" he said. "There are no operations, there are no additional forces."


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