At least 17 people have been hacked to death in two rebel attacks in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a local official has said.
On Thursday afternoon, the rebels killed 14 people in Mantumbi, a village 17 kilometres (11 miles) west of the city of Oicha, said Donat Kibwana, administrator of the Beni territory.
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Earlier that day, they had killed two and beheaded a third in Kolokoko, a suburb of Oicha, he told the Reuters News Agency.
“Everybody has fled the village [Mantumbi]. There are only soldiers here, who are in the process of helping to remove the bodies of the people who were all killed with knives,” he said
The violence has been blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group which officials say is responsible for a string of massacres since the start of November.
Also on Thursday, three more civilians were wounded in Beni town by an explosive device, an official source said, in a new tactic in a region beset by violence for decades.
Two passengers on a motorbike later threw an explosive device which blew up in the market, said Alois Mbwarara, administrative chief of Rwenzori, one of the four districts of the town.
“The ADF, on the run from the Congolese army, now uses their stooges in the town for acts of sabotage,” he said. “The army is analysing debris to determine whether it was a homemade bomb or a hand grenade.”
The last time an explosive device was used in Beni was in 2007, the official added.
The Congolese army has discovered “a factory for large-scale production of homemade bombs” at a seized ADF camp, military spokesman General Leon Richard Kasonga said on Wednesday.
Many militias operate in the eastern DRC despite the presence of foreign troops in one of the United Nations‘s largest peacekeeping operations.
DRC forces launched operations against the ADF in the eastern region at the end of October. In response, the ADF has carried out mass killings in an apparent bid to discourage civilians from helping the military.
At least 100 people have been killed since November 5 in attacks blamed on the ADF.
No military sources would officially confirm Thursday’s report, but the Congolese army and UN troops deployed to the vast country have announced joint operations against ADF forces in the Beni region.
Militia violence has also complicated efforts to combat the second-worst outbreak of the Ebola virus that has killed more than 2,200 people so far.
Attacks by the ADF and insecurity have sparked deadly protests against the UN’s MONUSCO mission forces in the east of the country who locals say have failed to protect their communities.