At least 60 people were murdered in a militia attack on a displaced persons’ camp in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday morning, according to the leader of a local humanitarian agency and a witness.
According to these accounts, the CODECO militia was responsible for the deaths, which occurred about 0200 GMT in the Savo camp in Ituri province.
According to the United Nations, CODECO fighters have killed hundreds of civilians in Ituri in recent years and driven thousands to evacuate their homes. Recent assaults have also targeted refugee camps.
“I first heard cries when I was still in bed. Then several minutes of gunshots. I fled and I saw torches and people crying for help and I realized it was the CODECO militiamen who had invaded our site,” said Lokana Bale Lussa, a camp resident.
“We have counted more than 60 dead and (more) seriously injured,” he said.
Charite Banza Bavi, president of the local humanitarian group for the Bahema-North area, put the death toll at 63.
The Savo displacement site was home to about 4,000 people in December, according to the U.N. migration agency.
CODECO’s fighters are drawn mainly from the Lendu farming community, which has long been in conflict with Hema herders.
A government spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.