ADDS DETAILS, UPDATES NUMBER KILLED; CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK
By James Tasamba and Godfrey Olukya
KIGALI, Rwanda/KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) - At least 18 civilians were killed and houses set ablaze in the Democratic Republic of Congo in an attack attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group in villages in Beni territory, authorities said Thursday.
The attack overnight Wednesday took place in Mayele, Toya, Kambatule, Kalembo and Kabrike, according to Col. Marcel Kaloni Shalunga, deputy administrator of the territory.
Acting Chairman of the chiefdom of Walese Vonkutu, Dieudonne Malangayi, said rebels raided Kabrike, firing shots that lasted for about 30 minutes.
In that village, “five civilians, including two women were shot and died on the spot. One man was seriously wounded and four houses were burned,” he said.
Shalunga said the situation returned to normal late Thursday following the intervention of the armed forces.
“We convey our condolences to the bereaved families and we ask the population to remain calm and to remain vigilant because the enemy lives among us,” he said. “Let us continue to collaborate with the army to enable them to do their job of continuing to hunt down the enemy to its last entrenchment.”
One of those who escaped, Vincent Kulhisho, said: “On hearing the gunshots, I fled into the bush, leaving behind my family. ADF rebels have been attacking villages near us in the past few weeks. We request the national army to completely eliminate those rebels.”
Another survivor told reporters that the attackers first ate food they found in her house.
“When the first group of five men arrived, they wanted to tie me up. Another group this time consisting of several men, women and children arrived and one (their commander) told them to leave me and that they continued on their way,” she said. “They had already held one old man who they killed instantly. Some were dressed in military uniforms, while others were in civilian clothes. They ate the food that was at my house before fleeing.”
Meleki Mulala of the New Civil Society of Congo core of the Rwenzori area believes the attackers carried out their operation without being disturbed.
The army said they neutralized four attackers.
President Felix Tshisekedi proclaimed a “state of siege” in May in Ituri and North Kivu, replacing senior civilian officials in the state with army officers in a bid to curb growing insecurity.
But at least 944 civilians have been killed in North Kivu and Ituri since the state of siege was proclaimed, according to Kivu Security Tracker, a monitor focused on violence in eastern DR Congo.