Clashes in Eastern DRC leave 13 dead


People walk by a burning tyres, on December 27, 2018 in Beni, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, after a demonstration of thousands of people protesting against the postponement, announced the day before by the Congolese national committee, of the general elections in this area because of the Ebola outbreak and the mass killings of civilians in this trouble part of DRC. - Already postponed three times, the elections are due to bring the curtain down on the era of President Joseph Kabila, in charge of the vast mineral-rich country for nearly 18 turbulent years. (Photo by Alexis HUGUET / AFP)

Eight militiamen, a police officer and four soldiers were killed Wednesday in clashes between security forces and rebels in two eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, military sources said.

“Eight Mai-Mai rebels were killed in an army counter-offensive after an attack on the town of Butembo” which had targeted military positions, Major Mak Hazukay, a spokesman for the army in North Kivu province told AFP.

One rebel was injured and brought to hospital.

Butembo police chief Colonel Paul Polo Ngoma said a border policeman was killed by the attackers, and had his weapon taken.

In neighbouring Ituri province, four soldiers died in a militia attack on an army location, said Lieutenant Jules Tshikudi, a provincial army spokesman.

The two provinces, rocked by a violent insurgency, are also battling a fresh Ebola outbreak, which the DRC health ministry says has killed more than 1,000 people since August last year.

Butembo is considered to be the epicentre of the outbreak, the tenth since Ebola was first identified in then-Zaire in 1976.

Dozens of armed groups compete for control of eastern DRC’s vast deposits of minerals, including gold, diamonds, copper and coltan.

Among them, Mai-Mai “self-defence” armed units are accused of attacks on Ebola treatment centres. A Cameroonian doctor attached to the UN’s World Health Organization was killed in an attack by a rebel group last month.

On Tuesday, a treatment centre at a hospital in Katwa, near Butembo, was set on fire, according to the health ministry.

Minister Oly Ilunga has warned that every such attack harms the fight against Ebola.

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