Six civilians, including a child, were killed in an attack in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, the army said, in the first assault this year in an area that has suffered multiple massacres.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack near Beni town, but DR Congo officials blamed the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist militia with roots in neighboring Uganda.
“Operations are in progress,” army regional spokesperson Mak Hazukay said confirming details of the attack and the army response. “The ADF are in disarray.”
Several militias operate in the restive eastern DR Congo, a bloody legacy of two regional wars that dragged in the country’s neighbors.
The ADF, an Islamist-rooted Ugandan armed group that has been linked to Islamic State Central Africa Province, has been active in eastern DRC since the Congo Wars of the 1990s. The group is blamed for the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians since October 2014, according to the not-for-profit Congo Research Group.
Violence has spiked since the end of October when the DR Congo army began an offensive against the ADF and the militia responded with a series of massacres against civilians.
The United Nations said since October 30 suspected ADF fighters killed more than 260 people, mostly women and children, in brutal attacks carried out mainly at night.
The army has said it killed five top ADF commanders and took over the group’s base in Beni in January. But it also acknowledged at least 90 soldiers had been killed so far in the offensive.
The massacres have sparked angry protests around Beni where residents say the troops from the U.N. Stabilization Mission force have failed to protect them.
An U.N. assessment said “strengthened cooperation between MONUSCO and the Congolese Army and Police is critical to sustain the gains made by the Congolese army during this latest offensive.”
With reporting from AFP