Nineteen civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were burned and hacked to death on Friday by Ugandan Islamist rebels, a local official said on Saturday.
Fourteen bodies were found on Saturday, Kakule Kalunga told AFP. A local chief said they were discovered by Red Cross workers who went into nearby forest to look for those missing after the attack on Kasanzi village in the Beni territory of North Kivu.
Beni lies at the heart of an area where the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) — linked to Islamic State — have mounted deadly attacks in spite of emergency security measures by President Felix Tshisekedi.
The “19 people were killed by the rebels who plague the territory of Beni, the ADF,” Kalunga said, adding that the victims were killed by “bladed weapons and fire”, and that houses were also set ablaze.
In a statement on Friday, Meleki Mulala, a spokesperson for the New Civil Society organisation in Rwenzori, deplored the absence of military personnel around Beni.
Regional military sources contacted by AFP on Saturday did not immediately comment.
Since May, the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri have been under a state of siege, replacing civilian authorities with army and police officers to fight armed groups.
Earlier this month, a contingent of US special operations forces arrived in the area to help the Congolese army in their fight against the ADF, US and Congolese sources said at the time.
The size of the contingent was unknown but around a dozen soldiers could be seen in official photos of a meeting between Tshisekedi and a delegation led by US ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo Mike Hammer.