Suspected Islamist Attack Kills 36 People in Eastern Congo

Updated on
  • Attackers hacked victims in homes, fields in North Kivu
  • Government blames attacks on Allied Democratic Forces

Suspected Islamist rebels killed at least 36 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s northeast, the provincial governor said, the latest in a wave of violence that’s struck the mineral-rich region since 2014.

Attackers hacked the victims in their houses and fields late Saturday on the outskirts of Beni, in North Kivu, Governor Julien Paluku said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

The attack is the most recent in a series of massacres by “radical Islamists or jihadists” in the northeast, government spokesman Lambert Mende said Sunday on national television. “These acts are no different to Islamists’ attacks” elsewhere in Africa and the world, he said as he urged international support to stop the violence.

Congo, almost the size of Western Europe, is the world’s largest source of cobalt. For two decades it has struggled to defeat dozens of local and foreign militias in the east, which has deposits of tin, gold and coltan.

The African nation’s government blames the latest attacks on the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist insurgent group originally based in Uganda that has operated along Congo’s border since the late 1990’s. A United Nations’ panel and an independent research group have both said the origins of the violence are more complicated and that other armed groups, including some Congolese soldiers, have been involved in the attacks.

‘Sabotaging Efforts’

The attack in Beni was designed to “to sabotage the efforts at peace undertaken in the last two years,” Paluku said. More than 500 people died in similar attacks in the northeast since 2014, human rights groups say.

Poor intelligence, hard terrain and insufficient resources make it difficult to identify and defeat insurgents in a region where dozen of armed groups continue to operate more than a decade after the end of a civil war that left millions of people dead.

Military spokesman Mak Hazukay said the attack might have been carried out by the ADF but said he could not provide more details at this stage. Paluku also declined to comment further when contacted by phone in Goma.

Congo’s army on Monday said it had arrested a senior leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, another rebel group in the country’s east, some members of which are linked to the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Iraguha Sabimana, who’s wanted by authorities for alleged crimes against civilians in 2009, was captured in Rutshuru on Aug. 12, Guillaume Ndjike, a military spokesman in North Kivu, said by phone.

The arrest came the same day Congolese President Joseph Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, pledged greater sharing of intelligence about rebel groups.