Nineteen civilians were killed and two were wounded in attacks on three villages by a militia in the troubled eastern DR Congo province of Ituri, a local chief said Monday.
The attack took place on Sunday in the Banyali Kilo area, local chief Innocent Madukadala told AFP.
“They killed 19 people… some were killed by machete and others were shot dead,” he said, blaming the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), an armed group blamed for ethnic attacks.
CODECO is drawn from the Lendu ethnic group, a predominantly farming community who have historically clashed with the Hema, a group of traders and herders.
The two communities were embroiled in a bloody conflict between 1999-2003 which led to the European Union’s first foreign military mission, the short-term Operation Artemis.
Madukadala said the coordinated assault claimed five lives in the village of Lisey, two in neighboring Tchulu, and 12 in Aloys.
Witnesses said six soldiers had been sent to the area, asking people to temporarily leave their homes.
Since December 2017, violence in Ituri has claimed nearly 1,000 lives and displaced half a million people, according to an International Crisis Group report last month.
The violence escalated after the army launched a crackdown on armed groups in October.
UN human rights investigators in June said at least 636 people had died since the start of the year.
Attacks spread into new areas after CODECO splintered following the killing of its main leader, Ngudjolo Duduko Justin, in March, they said.
The bloodshed in Ituri is part of a patchwork of problems engendered by armed groups in eastern DR Congo — the legacy of two wars in the 1990s.