At least 22 civilians were killed in Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province over the weekend, an official said, blaming the attacks on an armed group led by Ugandan rebels.
The killings happened in Eringeti, a town 55km north of the regional hub Beni, a city plagued by a wave of deadly attacks, according to regional official Amisi Kalonda.
“Yesterday, they killed 10 civilians. Twelve other bodies were found [on Sunday] in the surrounding villages,” he told AFP news agency on Sunday.
For the past two years, the region around Beni has been afflicted by a series of killings. Nearly 700 civilians have died, most of whom were hacked to death.
Congolese officials have blamed the attacks on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group of rebels dominated by Ugandan Muslims, but several reports have suggested that other groups – including elements within the Congolese army – took part in some killings.
A Congolese army spokesman confirmed the attacks saying military forces had “killed four ADF rebels” but added that “the toll on the civilian side is very heavy”.
The violence came amid a major political crisis in the country, in which opposition leaders are trying to prevent President Joseph Kabila, who has been in office since 2001, from serving a third term.
Congolese politicians have agreed in principle to a deal under which Kabila will leave office by the end of 2017, opposition leaders said on Friday, an unexpected breakthrough after dozens were killed in anti-government protests this week.
In return, the constitution cannot be changed to let Kabila stand for a third term. A prime minister will be named from the main opposition bloc and its leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, will oversee the implementation of the deal.
A government spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of the deal, which requires final approval by all the delegates at negotiations mediated by DRC’s Catholic church.