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More than 50 residents killed in DR Congo machete attack

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More than 50 people were massacred on Tuesday evening at a site for displaced people in Ituri, in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in new carnage attributed to a community militia. AFP

More than 50 residents killed in DR Congo machete attack

More than 50 civilians were killed when machete-wielding militiamen attacked a site for displaced people in strife-torn eastern DR Congo, sources said.

Fifty-two people, some of them children, were killed, a source with the UN’s peacekeeping mission MONUSCO said, adding that 36 were wounded. The Congolese government, which spoke of a “crime against humanity”, also said “about 50” people had died.

Local officials and civil society sources put the toll at more than 50 dead, while a respected monitor, the US-based Kivu Security Tracker (KST), said “at least” 40 were killed.

The army’s spokesman in Ituri province, Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, gave provisional figures of 21 dead.

“The massacre of defenceless civilians is a crime against humanity,” he said.

KST said the suspected attackers, carrying “edged weapons”, were from a notorious armed group called CODECO, blamed for a string of ethnic massacres in the area.

The communication ministry said in a tweet that regular army troops “stopped” the attack, while MONUSCO tweeted that its peacekeepers helped quell the attack, which took place in the Djugu area near Lake Albert.

The area is the theatre of a bloody, long-running feud between the Lendu and Hema communities.

Fighting between the two groups flared between 1999 and 2003, claiming tens of thousands of lives before being quelled by a EU peacekeeping force, Artemis.

Violence then resumed in 2017, blamed on the emergence of CODECO – the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) – which claims to defend the Lendu.

Since then, CODECO attacks have caused hundreds of deaths and prompted more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes, while half of the region’s population faces food insecurity, according to the Danish Refugee Council.

The latest assault targeted the Plaine Savo camp for displaced peple, where more than 24,000 took refuge following violence in Djugu in 2019, the Norwegian Refugee Council said.

Raids on camps for displaced people over an eight-day period in November-December left 123 dead, according to KST.

Jean Richard Dhedda Lenga, the senior administrator in Bahema Badjere district, said CODECO raiders attacked the site “at around 9pm, 10pm” on February 1.

“We have a provisional total of 59 dead” and around 40 wounded,” he told AFP by phone.

“I have just left the area – young people are looking for other bodies in huts and in the bush.”

Desire Malo Dra, a representative of civil society groups in Bahema Badjere, said most of the casualties were women and children.

“I have counted 53 bodies, others are coming in, they are all being gathered here where I am,” he said.

“The militiamen came armed with machetes. Many victims had their throats cut,” he said.

He added that the assailants “carried out their work calmly”, and the army arrived hours later, on the morning of February 2.

MONUSCO said on Twitter that its peacekeepers “arrived on the scene to stop the killing and repel the attackers.”

The UN’s children’s agency UNICEF said at least 15 children were among the dead, and more than 30 children were wounded.


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