Ten people have been killed after unidentified assailants attacked a river barge in western Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said on Friday, while dozens of others are feared missing.
The attack occurred on Tuesday near the village of Kaba-Ecole in Mai-Ndombe province’s Kwamouth territory, according to provincial government chief Rita Bola.
Details about the attack remain hazy. It is unclear who attacked the barge or why and Bola did not provide a death toll.
Pius Makina, who heads Kwamouth’s local government, said the boat had been carrying about 200 people onboard.
As it came under attack by assailants in another boat, about 100 passengers panicked, leaped into the river and are missing, he said.
Ten bodies were later discovered, according to Makina.
AFP was unable to independently confirm the details.
Kwamouth resident Pierre Zungulu said he had seen 22 survivors of the attack.
Several sources said the riverboat had been traveling from the DRC’s capital Kinshasa to the city of Mbandaka in Equateur province.
The province of Mai-Ndombe has seen fighting between Teke and Yaka communities since June, in a conflict first sparked by a dispute over taxes and land.
Members of the Teke community consider themselves the original inhabitants of villages spread over 200 kilometers (120 miles) along the Congo River. Yaka people settled in the area after the Teke.
Few attacks were recorded in Mai-Ndombe at the beginning of the year, triggering hopes the conflict was fizzling out.
But this month, at least 15 people were killed during a raid on two villages in Kwamouth.
Tens of thousands of people have fled their villages in the region, according to the United Nations.