Dozens of civilians have been killed as suspected armed groups raided villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo according to local advocates and news reports.
The attacks took place on Friday in the province of Ituri, an area along the country’s northeast border with Uganda that has regularly experienced systematic attacks on communities since 2017.
Charite Banza, the head of local civil society, told the Reuters news agency that Friday’s attack killed about 30 people, “both women and men”.
“They set fire to several houses, looted property,” Banza explained.
Other sources told the AFP news agency that the death toll exceeded 40. A regional administrator named Innocent Matukadala told the news outlet that 36 bodies were found in the town of Kilo Etat, plus another eight in Matete and more in Itendy.
Robert Basiloko, another civil society leader from the area, told AFP he estimated 43 were killed, including five children. “Every day there are deaths,” he said. “We’re tired of it.”
Sources quoted in both Reuters and AFP identified a group of militias called the Cooperative for Development of the Congo, or CODECO, as the suspected culprit in the attacks.
The United Nations reports that violence and insecurity have caused an estimated 1.5 million people to be displaced in Ituri over the past six years.
The conflict stems in part from ongoing tensions between the Lendu and Hema ethnic groups, as well as from the desire to control Ituri’s natural resources, which include gold and oil deposits. The conflict stretches back decades, with violence becoming particularly intense in the 1990s and 2000s.