No fewer than 17 civilians have been killed by militia fighters in the northeastern D.R.Congo province of Ituri, local sources and a security watchdog said in a region plagued by inter-communal violence.
Reports from the local official said that the fighters of the Patriotic and Integrationist Force of Congo (FPIC) attacked the village of Chabusiku, adding that some of the victims were burned alive in their homes.
Chabusiku is just 12 kilometres (seven miles) from Bunia, the provincial capital.
The official, David Bahinduka Bamuhiga, said the army was slow to arrive, and 17 people, most of them members of the Hema ethnic group, were killed.
“We recruited youths to dig graves to bury the victims,” he said.
Experts of the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a respected monitor, put the death toll at 18 and also blamed the FPIC.
KST said on its Twitter account that the new massacre “brings to at least 1,137 the number of civilians killed in North Kivu and Ituri since the start of the state of siege on May 6,”
North Kivu and Ituri have been under a “state of siege” to support a military offensive aimed at neutralising armed groups who target civilians as well as army positions.
President Felix Tshisekedi decreed the measure, under which soldiers and police officers have replaced civilian authorities in the two provinces.
According to KST analysts, the FPIC is one of the scores of armed groups operating in D.R.Congo’s four eastern border provinces of Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika. It is made up mainly of ethnic Bira youth angry at being excluded from the provincial government and eager to regain lands occupied by the Hema people,
The FPIC claims to defend the interests of the Bira ethnic group, one of many in the gold-rich province that descended into violence in 2017 after years of relative calm. The violence has claimed more than 1,000 lives.
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