Militiamen slaughtered 18 civilians who sought safety in a church compound in eastern Congo on Wednesday, according to a witness and local human rights organizations.
The attack happened early Tuesday in Banyali Kilo, a region in the conflict-torn Ituri province, as the victims slept in outbuildings of a church. According to the sources, they had fled there after escape earlier attacks.
Augustin Kolo, a survivor, was sleeping with his family when he heard screaming outside.
“I leapt to my feet and roused my wife and two children to go. Even though 18 of our brothers and sisters were slaughtered, this is how we were saved “he stated.
“It’s excruciatingly painful. Since we first evacuated our villages and then the CODECO followed us here, we are doubly wounded “He was alluding to a militia organization that was also implicated for the attack by an army spokesman. The official did not provide a death toll.
CODECO is one of numerous armed groups operating in eastern Congo, where land and resource disputes have fueled decades of strife.
Hundreds of civilians have been slaughtered by its fighters, who have recently attacked camps housing displaced people. On Wednesday, Reuters was unable to contact the organisation for comment.
The Congolese army has deployed troops in Ituri and the neighboring province of North Kivu, but has been unable to stop the carnage. In February, sixty persons were killed in an incident blamed to CODECO by the army and other sources.
“We’re aiming to bring peace to the province of Ituri. These militiamen have targeted displaced people who have no way of defending themselves once more “According to an army official, residents should report suspicious activities near displacement camps.