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DR Congo: At least 50 killed in Ituri village attacks

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ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP or licensors

Democratic Republic Of Congo

At least 50 people were killed on Sunday night in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A new provisional toll in an attack on two villages -- Boga and Tchabi in the Irumu territory in Ituri, as an initial report by this source stated that at least 39 civilians had been killed.

"The toll from last night's attacks (Sunday to Monday) has risen to at least 50 civilians killed (still provisional): 28 in Boga and 22 in Tchabi in the Irumu territory in Ituri," the Kivu Security Barometer (KST) said. 

The attackers reportedly targeted the Rubingo site for internationally displaced persons.

Among the victims of the Tchabi attack was the wife of the head of the Banyali-Tchabi chieftaincy, KST said.

There is still much speculation surrounding the authors behind the assaults.

Some attribute them to rebels of the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces. Who -- in recent months, have been behind select deadly attacks in Ituri in addition to further south, in North Kivu province.

Others recall that the region is marked by ethnic conflicts, notably between the Nyali and Banyabwisa communities. The latter are Congolese Hutus of Rwandan origin.

The two villages attacked, about 10 km apart, are on the border between North Kivu and Ituri, in an area bordering Uganda, where the ADF are known to be active.

However, for the two local officials mentioned above, "it is difficult to attribute these attacks to the ADF" given the brewing tensions amongst ethnic groups in the area.

A gold-rich province bordering Uganda and South Sudan, Ituri has had its share of massacres over the past three decades.

Between 1999 and 2003, communal conflict left tens of thousands dead. Members of the Lendu and Hema communities killed each other through proxy militias until the intervention in 2003 of the European Force Artemis, under French command.

After a few years of calm, the province has seen a return to violence since December 2017, but more to the north, in the territory of Djugu, before also affecting the territories of Irumu, Mahagi and Aru, on the eastern side of the province.

Much of the violence, which has left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands displaced, is blamed on members of a Mai Mai group called the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (Codeco). Now split into several rival factions, Codeco claims to defend the interests of the Lendu.

As for the ADF, in recent months they have increased their deadly attacks further south, in the province of North Kivu, but massacres have also been attributed to them in Ituri, in areas bordering North Kivu.

Originally Ugandan Muslim rebels who settled in the DRC in 1995, the ADF is by far the most deadly of the 122 armed groups identified by the KST in eastern Congo.

On 11 March, the United States listed the ADF as a "terrorist group" affiliated with the jihadists of the Islamic State (EI).

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