Militants in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have killed at least 16 civilian hostages, military and local sources say.
According to local civilian sources, the victims had been held by members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which the US links to the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.
Local official Dieudonne Malangai said on Tuesday that the hostages, who included two women, were killed along a main road near Idohu, in the conflict-ravaged Ituri Province.
Speaking in Komanda Village, 40 kilometres away from the site of the slaughter, Ituri's military governor, Johnny Luboya Nkashama, strongly condemned the attack. "We will reinforce our presence in the region," he told a meeting with local residents of Komanda.
"Helicopters are already on the scene and other military personnel are on their way with trucks and munitions to assure security in the region and to organize safe convoys along this road," the governor added.
Nkashama vowed to return within a month to reassess the situation in the area, where thousands of people have escaped violence.
The DR Congo’s government besieged Ituri and neighboring North Kivu in May 2021, in a move aimed at intensifying the fight against armed groups.
"It was hoped that the state of siege would restore security but people continue to die every day," Nkashama said, adding, "The objective is to clean up the area completely and allow the population to return to the village."
According to the Catholic Church of the DR Congo, the ADF rebel group, which is the most brutal of scores of militia outfits operating in the region, has killed approximately 6,000 civilians since 2013. But the US-based monitoring group Kivu Security Tracker (KST) blames ADF for more than 1,200 killings in the Beni area alone since 2017.
In 2019, the DR Congo's army launched a large-scale counter-militancy campaign against the ADF. The group abandoned its bases in response, split into smaller, more mobile groups, and retaliated against local civilians.
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