At least 50 people have been killed in two overnight attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s deeply troubled east, a military official and monitors said.
A local official blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which has been linked to the ISIL (ISIS) group. Military spokesman Jules Ngongo told the dpa news agency that ADF fighters attacked the villages of Boga and Tchabi in the eastern Ituri region.
The two villages lie on the border between North Kivu and Ituri provinces in an area where the ADF is believed to be active.
Other sources said the attacks may have been ethnic in origin.
One community leader said children and the elderly were among the victims.
The DRC army gave a slightly higher provisional toll of 53 after a meeting of security forces in Bunia, the capital of Ituri province.
Local MP Gracien Iracan said at least 60 people were killed.
“Seven trucks arrived to remove the victims – it’s a dramatic situation,” Iracan told the AFP news agency. “They’re still finding bodies, so the toll is likely to grow. Many wounded people are still hiding in the bushes.”
MP Iracan said, “A very large number of attackers showed up, the assault was well targeted, they killed two local leaders … we can’t rule out that they were settling scores.”
Two local officials in Boga told AFP the assailants had attacked a camp for displaced people. They said 36 bodies had been found so far in Boga, a figure that has yet to be independently confirmed.
Those same officials also cautioned against immediately blaming the ADF, given the ethnic conflicts in the region.
Suspicions that the violence was ethnically motivated stem from the fact that the displaced people’s camp in Boga mostly hosted displaced people from the Nyali group – but a nearby site housing Banyabwisha people was spared.
“We think it was the same group” behind the attacks on both villages, the head of the Nyali community in Tchabi told AFP by phone.