By Godfrey Olukya
KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) - At least 26 people were killed overnight Wednesday in the Lodjo gold mining area in Djugu territory in Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, UN radio reported Thursday.
It said the attacks continued Thursday and the killers have been identified as the rebel militiamen with the Cooperative for Development of the Congo (CODECO), a loose association of various Lendu militia groups.
Several of the militias affiliated with the rebel movement have been accused of war crimes by UN officials.
A local leader of the area, Chief Olumba Mabilindey, said the victims were in a mining area when the militiamen made a surprise attack, killing indiscriminately. He said women were among those killed.
Mabilindey said the first attack took place last night in the Ngama and Dieumerci mining sites in Lodjo, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Mungwalu center.
He said the attackers, armed with guns and machetes, broke into homes and killed the victims in cold blood.
"In the night attack, 19 people were shot dead. Some died on the spot, others who were still breathing were finished off by machetes," he said.
Mabilindey said the attackers went to the mining squares of Matalatala and Maporo early Thursday where they cowardly slaughtered seven gold diggers before removing minerals found. He said residents in the areas have fled.
A security officer in Ituri province, Lieut. Philip Mosoye, said police and the army are pursuing the killers.