At least nine people have been killed and 16 injured after an explosive device accidentally detonated in a field in the conflict-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, local sources told the AFP news agency on Thursday.
The blast occurred on Wednesday evening in Lubwe Sud in North Kivu province’s Rutshuru territory.
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Justin Mwangaza, a local civil society figure, said a civilian had picked up a bomb in a field and given it to a militiaman when it subsequently exploded. Nine people were killed and 16 injured, he said.
A nurse at a nearby clinic confirmed the toll, explaining that two people died on the spot and seven later succumbed to their wounds. Some of the 16 wounded people are in critical condition, the nurse said.
Al Jazeera’s Alain Uaykani Alwak confirmed the incident and death toll.
Armed groups have plagued much of eastern DRC for decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s. According to a count by the United Nations, there are as many as 120 groups in the region.
One such group, the M23, has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu since taking up arms again in late 2021 after years of dormancy.
The rebel campaign has displaced over one million people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
In a June 2023 report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) further accused the group of committing murder, rape and “other war crimes” in recent months.
Independent UN experts, the DRC government and several Western nations including the United States and France accuse Rwanda of actively backing the M23, despite denials from Kigali.