Fifty-eight people have been killed in two attacks in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Ituri province, the provincial interior minister said, attributing the attacks to the armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Twenty-three people were killed in Irumu territory in southern Ituri on Tuesday, followed by 35 on Thursday, Minister Adjio Gidi told AFP news agency.
“It was ADF, fleeing military pressure in [neighbouring] North Kivu province, namely in Beni,” Gidi said.
“Our forces are already in the area and are in contact with the enemy,” he said.
ADF is a Ugandan armed group operating in eastern DRC for more than 30 years.
“Among the dead are unfortunately three village chiefs,” Gili Gotabo, the head of a civil rights group in Irumu, said.
Rachel Tarwayi, the administrator of Irumu territory, said on Thursday: “They finished off the poor civilians with knives and firearms. People have been panicking since this morning and are already fleeing.”
The attacks were the latest in a string of massacres the United Nations has said may constitute to war crimes.
The UN says violence attributed to the ADF has soared since the start of the year following the launch of a large-scale army campaign to wipe it out.
The UN says ADF fighters have killed more than 1,000 civilians since the start of 2019.
Several attacks attributed to the ADF have also been claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group, although researchers and analysts say there is a lack of hard evidence linking the two groups.
Since the start of 2020, violence committed by a constellation of more than 100 armed groups has forced more than half a million people in the east of the country to flee their homes.
However, the military and security forces have also committed grave violations, including killings and sexual violence, the UN has said.