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DRC: at least 15 dead in a new militia attack in Ituri

DRC: at least 15 dead in a new militia attack in Ituri
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Democratic Republic Of Congo

At least fifteen people have been killed in an attack attributed to the Codeco community militia in Ituri, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, local sources and the army said on Monday.

Codeco militiamen carried out an attack on a fishermen's camp in Gobu, a landlocked area, Charité Banza, president of civil society in Bahema Nord, a chiefdom (administrative entity) in Ituri province, told AFP on Sunday.

The attack lasted "just over two hours and left at least fifteen people dead", he said, calling on the DRC's armed forces to be more responsive.

"These militiamen are neither attacked nor hunted down", deplored Mr Banza.

Nine civilians, one soldier and four Codeco militiamen were killed", said Pilo Mulindo, chief of the Bahema Nord chiefdom, giving a provisional death toll for the time being.

Questioned by AFP, army spokesman Lieutenant Jules Ngongo also accused the Codeco of "attacking civilians who were praying on Sunday in their church in Gobu, on the shores of Lake Albert", which marks the border with Uganda.

"Our forces retaliated to this attack, and the militiamen are being pursued", he added, without giving any immediate figures.

Codeco (Coopérative pour le développement du Congo) is a militia of several thousand men that claims to protect the Lendu tribe from a rival tribe, the Hema, as well as from the DRC army.

Attacks by Codeco and other community militias are recurrent in Ituri, mainly north of Bunia, the province's capital. A week earlier, seven other people were killed in the same area, said Mr Banza.

After a decade of calm, the deadly conflict in Ituri between Hema and Lendu has resumed since the end of 2017, causing the deaths of thousands of civilians and the flight of more than one and a half million people, according to the UN.

The previous conflict between community militias caused thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003, until the intervention of a European force, Operation Artemis, under French command.

Numerous armed groups, sometimes supported by neighbouring countries, have been active for three decades in the east of the DRC, a region rich in minerals.

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