At least 13 civilians were killed in a camp for displaced people on Wednesday night in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in a region where sporadic clashes between armed groups and the M23 rebellion persist, local sources said Friday.
There have been reports of 145 people killed by the M23, a rebel movement with a Tutsi majority. But no reliable source interviewed on the spot reported such a toll and local authorities accused a pro-Hutu militia, the "CMC-Nyatura", of being responsible for this attack which targeted the Kisimba camp, 4km from Kitshanga, in the Rutshuru territory (North Kivu province).
"The toll is 13 dead and five wounded, the perpetrators are alleged Nyatura," an administrative official in Kisimba told AFP on condition of anonymity.
A Red Cross official confirmed the death toll of 13 and five injured.
"At first it was said that it was the M23 but after verification, it was the CMC" who, in search of pro-rebels, attacked the camp, said a human rights activist, also on condition of anonymity, putting the death toll at 15 - 7 women killed, 3 children and 5 men.
"Among those killed was my two-and-a-half-year-old son, who was on the back of his mother, who was shot in the legs," said Hakiza, who lives in the camp.
The M23, for "March 23 Movement," backed by Rwanda according to U.N. experts, took up arms in late 2021 after nearly a decade of dormancy and last year seized large swaths of territory in North Kivu province.
A regional East African force has since December recaptured some of its strongholds, but the rebels are still present in the region where they face armed groups calling themselves "patriots.
The M23 offensive has caused massive population displacement, worsening an already critical humanitarian situation in a region that has been plagued by violence from multiple armed groups for nearly 30 years.