GOMA, Congo (Reuters) – Armed attackers killed 10 people and kidnapped two others during a raid on a village in eastern Congo, a local official said on Tuesday, accusing the fighters of belonging to an Islamist rebel militia.
The attack comes five days after the Democratic Republic of Congo’s army launched a large-scale operation against insurgent group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in an area which is also fighting to contain the second-worst Ebola epidemic on record.
The ADF, originally a Ugandan Islamist-inspired rebel group, has been operating along the Congo/Uganda border for more than two decades, one of a number of armed factions active in east Congo long after the official end of a 1998-2003 war.
Fighters stormed the village of Kokola in Beni territory on Monday evening, said Donat Kibwana, the local administrator.
“The mode of the attack was the same as that of the ADF,” he told Reuters by telephone. “While the army launched the large-scale operations deep into the forest, the rebels took the opportunity to attack the towns and civilians.”
Several of ADF’s previous attacks have been claimed by Islamic State, but the extent of their relationship remains unclear. The ADF is not known to have pledged loyalty to Islamic State in public. [nL8N23B5VO]
Six Congolese soldiers were also killed in clashes around Kokola on Monday night, according to sources cited by the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a website that monitors violence in the region.
KST, which is a collaboration between New York University’s Congo Research Group and New York-based Human Rights Watch, said at least eight villagers were killed. The information could not be independently verified.
The presence of the Islamist militant group, along with a constellation of other violent militias and armed criminal bands, has severely hampered efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, which has infected more than 3,000 people and killed more than 2,000 since August last year.
Reporting by Fiston Mahamba; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Peter Graff