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DRC: Over 150 dead in two weeks in Ituri, according to the UN

DRC: Over 150 dead in two weeks in Ituri, according to the UN
Commanders of the URDPC/CODECO armed group walk through the village...   -  
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ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP or licensors

Democratic Republic Of Congo

The massacres continue in Ituri, a province in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo where more than 150 civilians have been killed since early April, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Tuesday.

In his last quarterly report at the end of March, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres put the number of civilians killed since the beginning of December in this gold-rich province plagued by violence from several armed groups at 485.

These include the Codeco (Cooperative for the Development of Congo) militia, which claims to defend the Lendu tribe, and the rival Zaire militia, which claims to protect the Hema. The province has also been the target of attacks by the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) affiliated with the jihadist group Islamic State.

During the first two weeks of April, OCHA-DRC noted a "persistence of attacks against civilians in three separate territories" (Djugu, Irumu, Mambasa) where, according to humanitarian sources and local authorities, "armed attacks have resulted in approximately 150 deaths.

Since the beginning of the month, the locality of Komanda in Irumu territory "has become a refuge for thousands of people fleeing generalized insecurity" in the chiefdom (grouping of villages) of Walese Vonkutu, OCHA added.

The UN humanitarian coordination office also reports attacks on basic infrastructure, including the Rimba health center (Mahagi territory), "ransacked on April 12 by armed elements.

"The security situation in Ituri remains very worrying because of the continuing attacks on civilians. These attacks leave communities in dire need of assistance and protection," commented Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres, in New York.

He said that of the more than 150 deaths since the beginning of April, more than 55 civilians had been killed and others wounded in a single day on Friday in Djugu territory, citing figures from local authorities.

Asserting the willingness of the UN and its partners to help people in a province where 1.6 million people have had to flee their homes, he noted that "aid distribution may be delayed in areas affected by recent attacks.

"The authorities must strengthen measures to protect civilians," he pleaded.

After a decade-long lull, the deadly conflict between Hema and Lendu resumed in late 2017, causing more than 1.5 million people to flee and several thousand to die.

Like neighboring North Kivu province, Ituri has been under a "state of siege" for nearly two years, an exceptional measure that replaced the civilian administration with the police and army but has failed to stop the violence.

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