Suspected militants ambushed a convoy in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, killing four civilians and a dozen others were taken hostage.
Congo’s army has freed more than 50 of the hostages in Ituri province and operations are underway to recover the remaining captives from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan extremist group, the communications ministry posted on Twitter.
The ministry did not say how many people were still being held hostage. A local lawmaker earlier said about 80 people were believed to be missing after the attack on a convoy of about 100 vehicles that were travelling by army protection on the road between the cities of Beni and Butembo.
Attacks by the armed groups operating in eastern Congo’s borderlands with Rwanda and Uganda have continued unabated despite the government’s imposition of martial law in Ituri and North Kivu province at the beginning of May.
The installation of army generals as provincial governors was meant to quell a surge in violence that the military largely attributes to the ADF.
According to the Kivu Security Tracker, the number of civilians killed in such attacks has increased.
Survivors of Wednesday’s attack recalled a hail of gunfire as the convoy passed near the village of Ofaye.
One of the survivors, Malanda Dague described “bullets flying in every direction,” while “some vehicles were hit and then burned.”
Jean-Paul Ngahangondi, a member of parliament in North Kivu province, where the convoy started, criticised what he says is the army’s slow response, a frequent complaint of local people.
He noted “the army just waits for the rebels to kill the population and only then pursues them without any positive results.”
Eastern Congo has been plagued by violence since regional wars around the turn of the century. I.S has claimed dozens of killings blamed on the ADF, although U.N. experts say they have not found conclusive evidence that I.S has control over ADF operations.
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