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Rebels massacre villagers in DR Congo

August 14, 2016

The DR Congo army is blaming Ugandan rebels, known as the Allied Democratic Forces, for killing residents of a northeastern town. The ADF, which opposes Ugandan President Museveni, takes refuge across the border.

A burial ceremony for victims of an attack by suspected Ugandan Islamist rebels from the ADF.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/K. Mailro

At least 36 people have been massacred in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been racked by violence since 2014.

The army is accusing Ugandan rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) of carrying out the attack in the town of Beni, according to army spokesman Mak Hazukay.

"We have just found their bodies," he said, but added, "The search for the bodies continues."

The death toll is expected to rise, with some indications it could reach 50 or more.

Ugandan President Yoveri Museveny (R) gestures as he sits under a marquee with DRC President Josef Kabila.
Ugandan President Yoveri Museveni (R) discussed security with DR Congo President Josef Kabila just over a week agoImage: Getty Images/AFP/K. Maliro

Hazukay said ADF rebels "bypassed" army positions "to come and massacre the population in revenge" for military operations in the area.

The machete-wielding attackers struck Saturday night, just three days after DR Congo's President, Joseph Kabila, visited the region, vowing to bring peace and security to the people.

The North Kivu province, which encompasses Beni, has seen a spate of attacks over the past two years that the government and United Nations blame on ADF rebels.

Numerous massacres since October 2014, have killed more than 600 civilians in the region, the worst coming in November 2014 when 80 people were killed.

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Protesting massacre

A provincial human rights activist, Jackson Kasereka, said residents were "burning tires" in the streets to protest the massacre and the government's failure to protect them.

"The police have just taken the bodies off us, but we will continue to protest. It's not normal that they slaughter us like goats," said demonstrator Georges Kamate, who drives a motorbike taxi.

Another protester shouted, "Our government is incapable of keeping us safe!"

Indeed, army spokesman Hazukay said, "The goal of the attack is to incite the population to rise up against us."

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Beni's mayor, Edmond Masumbuko, refused to comment saying he was, "in a security meeting."

Restless region

ADF rebels opposed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, have been present in the eastern DR Congo for more than two decades.

The group has a long rap sheet of human rights abuses and is thought to be entwined in criminal networks funded by kidnappings, smuggling and logging.

But there are dozens of armed groups active in the North Kivu region, where government forces have also been accused of attacking civilians.

Even before the ADF came on the scene, the region has been marred by violence since the end of the second Congolese war in 2003. Efforts by the international community and the Congolese authorities have failed to end the bloodshed.

Last week 11 Congolese soldiers and a UN peacekeeper were wounded in the Beni area during a confrontation with ADF forces, according to the UN.

bik/tj (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)