Thirty people, including 11 civilians, have died in two days of fighting between government forces and a militia in the eastern DR Congo province of Ituri, the army said Thursday.
The area, located in the territory of Djugu, around 60 kilometers (35 miles) from Ituri’s capital Bunia, is rich in gold, and CODECO has been accused by local civil groups of illegally extracting the precious metal.
“Eleven civilians were killed, two soldiers and a policemen died” on Monday when the CODECO militia attacked the villages of Tchele and Garua, its provincial spokesman Lieutenant Jules Ngongo told AFP. In an army counter-offensive on Tuesday “16 militiamen were neutralized,” he said.
Troops pursued the militia to its rear base, in the village of Mbau, and secured Tchele and Garua, Ngongo said.
CODECO — Cooperation for the Development of Congo — is an armed political-religious sect linked to more than 1,000 deaths since December 2017.
The group gathers several sects of militia fighters who claim to defend the rights of ethnic Lendu communities, say experts.
Tens of thousands of people died in Ituri between 1999 and 2003 in fighting between the Lendu and Hema ethnic group.
It was brought to an end thanks to Operation Artemis — the European Union’s first military operation outside Europe — but resumed at the end of 2017, focussed on Djugu.
More than 120 armed groups are active in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, many of them the legacy of regional wars in the 1990s.