More than 30 civilians have been killed in a massacre in an area of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that has been shaken by violence since 2014, the army said on Sunday.
Suspected rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a partly Islamist armed group of Ugandan origin, killed “about 30 people” in the town of Beni on Saturday night, army spokesperson Mak Hazukay told AFP. “We have just found their bodies.”
The victims were found in the Rwangoma neighbourhood on the outskirts of Beni, Hazukay said, adding: “The search for the bodies continues.”
Hazukay said the ADF rebels had “bypassed” army positions “to come and massacre the population in revenge” for military operations in the area.
Gilbert Kambale, a local civil society leader, said 35 bodies had been brought to Beni’s hospital morgue.
Beni lies in North Kivu, a province that has seen a long spate of attacks that the government and United Nations blame on the ADF.
The Beni area in particular has seen many massacres since October 2014 that have in total left more than 600 civilians dead.
The ADF, opposed to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, have been present in eastern DRC for more than 20 years.
The group has been accused of copious human rights abuses and is thought to be deeply embroiled in criminal networks funded by kidnappings, smuggling and logging.
Dozens of armed groups are active in North Kivu, where government troops have also been accused of preying on the civilian population.
The Rwangoma neighbourhood where the latest massacre took place lies on the edge of the Virunga national park, used as a hideout for armed groups.
The killings came three days after DRC’s President Joseph Kabila visited the region, promising to do everything in his power to bring peace and security .
“It’s worrying because the president of the republic came here and then we were massacred,” Kambale said, adding that the attack took place between 19:00 and 23:00 on Saturday.