Oicha, Democratic Republic of the Congo – Although the DRC’s military has been on the offensive against the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) since January 2013, the group is said to have steppped up attacks on civilians in recent weeks.
Paluku Nsahangondi, director of the CRDH (Convention pour le Respect des Droits de l’Homme) rights group in Oicha, said that at least 25 people had been killed and 15 injured since October 3.
With no official statements from the ADF – or details of any negotiations between it and DRC authorities – the group, which operates in the northeast of the country, and its aims remain relatively unknown.
Some women and girls who managed to escape ADF captivity told Al Jazeera there could be as many as 600 women, some as young as nine and ten years old, being held in terrible conditions and being used as sex slaves.
Many more children, they said, were being forced to fight as unwilling foot soldiers for the group.
Massika, a 16-year-old girl who was kidnapped and held for a year before escaping, said hundreds of women were kept in holes in the ground and only taken out to be raped – or to clean and do laundry.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify her account.
This report was made possible with the support of the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund.