At least 10 people have been killed in an overnight raid in the city of Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in an attack blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group.
Residents on Thursday said a group of attackers had set several houses on fire in the middle of the night in the city’s Beu district, firing upon people as they exited the buildings and attacking some with machetes.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but officials blamed ADF for the attack in the Rwangoma neighbourhood.
“Overnight, there was an attack by ADF enemies. We lost around 10 civilians,” lieutenant Anthony Mualushayi told the AFP news agency. An AFP correspondent saw 10 bodies in the morgue of Beni’s general hospital.
With reports of missing people, there are fears the death toll could rise.
The ADF – the most violent of an estimated 122 armed groups in the mineral-rich eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars from 1996 to 2003 – has never claimed responsibility for attacks.
Gloire Kivetya, president of a body representing civil society groups in Beu, also blamed the attack on the ADF. The Kivu Security Tracker, a monitoring group, also said the ADF was suspected.
At least 11 civilians were killed last night in the Rwangoma neighborhood (#Beni town, North Kivu). Provisional report, there are some missing people. The #ADF are suspected. #DRC pic.twitter.com/GfpDzWXMAU
— Baromètre sécuritaire du Kivu (@KivuSecurity) July 1, 2021
The ADF, which appeared in the 1990s in western Uganda with the declared aim of creating a so-called “Islamic state”, has made its base in the eastern DRC since 1995.
According to a tally compiled by the DRC’s Catholic church, the ADF has been responsible for at least 6,000 deaths since 2013.
The KST says the ADF has killed more than 1,200 civilians in the Beni area of North Kivu province alone since 2017.
On March 10, the United States branded the ADF a “foreign terrorist organisation” and said its leader Musa Baluku had pledged allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.
But experts are still unsure about the extent of links between the ADF and ISIL.
In May, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi proclaimed a “state of siege” in North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province in a bid to curb growing insecurity.
Under this, senior civilian officials have been replaced by army officers.