Muslim preachers from Tanzania kidnapped in DR Congo

A view over Lake Kivu and Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is seen on August 1, 2013 (AFP Photo/Phil Moore) (AFP/File)

Goma (DR Congo) (AFP) - Eight Muslim preachers from Tanzania have been kidnapped in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, an area where several armed groups operate and kidnappings are frequent, authorities said Wednesday.

The preachers were taken over the weekend from the Kiseguro area, in the restive province of North Kivu, province Governor Julien Paluku told AFP.

"We have referred the case to our foreign affairs mission so that it can alert its Tanzanian counterparts," he added.

Kidnappings for ransom, often with physical violence against the hostages, are frequent in the territory around Kiseguro.

Several armed groups, including the ethnic Hutu militia Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), operate in the east of DR Congo, which is a Christian-majority country.

"It appears the (victims) are Muslims who were travelling for the purpose of preaching when they met some unidentified bandits who took them hostage," said imam Masudi Kadogo, who represents the Muslim community in North Kivu.

Just a few months ago a Muslim leader in the area was taken hostage and later released in exchange for a ransom, he added.

It is not clear who captured the preachers, but authorities speculated that FDLR or local youths could be behind the kidnapping.

The FDLR has been active in Democratic Republic of Congo -- which borders both Rwanda and Burundi -- since crossing over from Rwanda after the 1994 genocide of mainly Tutsi people there.

Opposed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame's Tutsi-dominated government, they are accused of carrying out brutal attacks on civilians in eastern DR Congo and of smuggling gold.