The toll of attacks on villages by militiamen on Saturday in Ituri, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), rose from 15 to more than 30 dead, including many women and children, we learned Monday from local sources.
The CODECO ( Cooperative for the Development of Congo ) community militia, which claims to protect the Lendu tribe against the Hema tribe, is accused of carrying out the attacks early Saturday morning against five villages in the territory of Mahagi, killing inhabitants, stealing cattle, looting and burning houses.
Arnold Lokwa, head of the "chiefdom" of Panduru, in which the targeted villages are located, said on Sunday that the bodies of 15 victims had been found, "mostly women, children and old people".
"Now we have 31 dead (...) and the search continues," Lokwa told AFP on Monday. The toll could still increase, he added, denouncing "a targeted massacre".
"We have already collected 39 bodies," said a humanitarian source. "The majority of the victims are women" and at least three young children are among the dead, the source said. According to her, the 39 victims were found in three villages, access to the other two being still impossible on Monday for security reasons.
Also on Saturday in eastern DRC, in the neighboring province of North Kivu, rebel ADF (Allied Democratic Forces ), affiliated with the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), are accused of killing at least nine people in the village of Nguli, in Lubero territory.
IS claimed responsibility for the attack, after also claiming responsibility for one that killed around 40 people on March 8.
The provinces of Ituri and North Kivu have been under a "state of siege" since May 2021, a measure that has replaced civilian authorities with a military administration but has so far failed to bring peace to areas. plagued by violence from armed groups for nearly 30 years.
North Kivu has also been affected for more than a year in its southern part by violence due to the resurgence of the M23 rebellion ( "March 23 Movement" ).