Armed gunmen, believed to be Islamist extremists, killed at least 16 people and houses burned down in Beni, a village in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, reports have claimed.
The reports, which quoted a witness and a civil society leader, said the incident happened on Wednesday night.
On Thursday morning, an army spokesman, Capt. Anthony Mwalushayi said that a combat patrol unit had clashed with rebels, but provided no further details.
Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group active in the region, has been blamed for the attack.
“These Ugandan-based ADF rebels attacked the peaceful farm area around 6 p.m., killing and burning three civilian houses,” he said.
“Investigations are underway to find the perpetrators of this despicable act. I call on the population to be calm and to collaborate with the army.”
Since 2014, the ADF has been killing civilians in large numbers in the dense forests near the Ugandan border. The Congolese army launched a large-scale operation against them in late 2019, provoking a violent backlash.
According to the Kivu Security Tracker, a research group affiliated with Human Rights Watch, although the government declared a state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in May that was intended to halt the bloodshed, civilian security has continued to deteriorate.
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