Seventeen people have been killed during two attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces armed group in the troubled Beni region in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a local mayor said Friday, December 7.
Twelve civilians died in Mangolikene on the outskirts of Beni city on Thursday while another five were killed overnight in the Paida area, mayor Nyonyi Masumbuko Bwanakana told AFP.
Explosions were heard overnight in Paida, according to local civil society representative Kizito Bin Hangi.
The regional army’s spokesman said the five killings in Paida happened during an attack on barracks in the city.
“We are searching for ADF [fighters],” Captain Mak Hazukay said.
The government has often blamed the group for killings, robberies and kidnappings, but sometimes it is unclear who the true assailants are.
The Allied Democratic Forces militia was created in 1989 by Muslim rebels to oppose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who was seen as hostile to Muslims.
The group absorbed other rebel factions and started carrying out attacks in 1995. It was forced westwards by the Ugandan army, and moved most of its activities to the DRC.
Often described as Islamist, analysts say the ADF’s motivations for attacks can vary in a region where poverty and instability are endemic.
They are thought to have killed at least 700 civilians and more than 20 United Nations peacekeepers deployed with the MONUSCO mission.
But analysts say the ADF’s motives for attacks can vary in a region where armed conflict is hampering efforts to curb an Ebola outbreak.
A rebel fighter and six civilians were killed on November 27 when the ADF raided the town of Oicha near Beni.
On November 15, eight U.N. peacekeepers and 12 DRC troops died in a clash with ADF militants near Kididiwe after they launched the joint operation.
The ADF was also blamed for two raids on November 4 that killed at least seven people in the North Kivu region. Fifteen people, including children, were kidnapped in those attacks.
Friday’s attacks came a day after opposition candidate Martin Fayulu visited Beni to launch his campaign ahead of this month’s high-stakes presidential election.
Fayulu is among a host of candidates contesting the race in a nation that has not known a peaceful transition of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.
In all, 21 candidates are registered to run in the December 23 race to replace 47-year-old Joseph Kabila, who has ruled since 2001.
With reporting from AFP