The army has said it lost two soldiers but killed at least 14 militiamen while dislodging them from a village in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo following another massacre of civilians.
DRC troops on Friday gained the upper hand over the ADF militia in Loselose village and “drove them out after three days of occupation and intense fighting”, Lieutenant Antony Mualushayi, the army spokesman in Beni region, told AFP news agency.
“The enemy toll is 14 bodies seen, including two white men who are probably Arabs. Two hero soldiers fell on the field of honour,” the officer said earlier in a statement on Saturday.
Loselose village, about 50km (30 miles) east of Beni, and the entire Ruwenzori sector are known for their cocoa plantations and banana groves. Harvesting began in the area in November.
Regional officials alleged on Friday that the ADF militiamen slaughtered at least 25 civilians when they surprised them in their fields on New Year’s Eve by the village of Tingwe.
The ADF, which originated in the 1990s as a Ugandan Muslim rebel group, is one of the dozens of militias that are in the eastern provinces of the vast DRC.
It is blamed for the death of about 800 civilians over the past year in North Kivu province, which borders Uganda.
The group makes money notably through wood trafficking and DRC officials suspect some soldiers are complicit in its violent raids.
The ADF has never claimed responsibility for attacks. But since April 2019, several of its assaults have been claimed by the so-called Islamic State Central Africa Province, without providing proof.
The United Nations said in July the group’s attacks could constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.
A December 23 midterm report by a group of UN experts which addressed the security situation in the region “characterised by pockets of intense violence”.
The report found that in North Kivu, the armed forces “scattered the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) into several mobile groups and extended the ADF area of operations”.
On October 30, 2019, the army launched a large-scale operation against ADF strongholds, saying they had “neutralised” five of the group’s leaders.
But that did not prevent a surge in violence in the first half of 2020 with the UN data showing 1,315 deaths compared with 416 in the first half of 2019.