At least 23 people were killed in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in what officials described as an attack by rebel fighters.
Police and local officials said on Monday that the overnight raid on Apetina-Sana in the restive eastern region of Beni was carried out by ADF rebels, who operate in both DRC and neighbouring Uganda.
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Beni administrator Donat Kibwana told AFP news agency that the ADF hacked civilians to death in the settlement, which lies 16 kilometres (10 miles) west of Oicha, the chief administrative town in Beni.
The rebels also reportedly torched the victims’ homes.
Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Nairobi, Kenya, said the death toll was expected to rise as the attack had lasted hours and many people were yet to be accounted for.
“They say when the rebels entered the village, they went from house to house burning everything in their path. Anyone they came across, including women and children, they killed.”
Mutasa said some people were now making the hours-long walk to Beni city to stay in churches or with family members.
“You get a sense that people are terrified,” she said, adding that many in the area have long felt abandoned by the government.
“They feel that all the resources go to the capital … The roads are in a bad state, there’s no infrastructure, they feel let down. So a lot of people say that when these attacks happen – and they do happen often – they feel alone.”
While the ADF originated in Uganda, its rebels have been attacking and killing people in eastern DRC for more than 20 years.
Anger at authorities
Apetina-Sana is a point on the so-called Triangle of Death, along with Mbau and Eringeti – the worst-hit area by attacks.
ADF fighters have killed more than 200 people since the DRC army launched an offensive against the armed group on October 30, according to civil society groups.
“The authorities were tipped off on Sunday evening about the presence of suspicious men west of Oicha,” said Teddy Kataliko, a civil society activist in Beni.
“We continue to ask the DRC armed forces to launch operations on the western side as well to save civilians.”
There have also been demonstrations in Beni city, where local people accuse the United Nations peacekeeping force MONUSCO of failing to protect them.
In a separate incident in eastern DRC on Monday, “armed bandits” attacked a base used by a Chinese-owned gold mine, killing four people, the military said.
The raid took place in Irumu district in the northeastern province of Ituri, Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, the army’s provincial spokesman, said.
Two soldiers, a policeman and a driver for the mine were killed.