Zaire militia blamed for new massacre in DRC's volatile east

Notorious Zaire militants attack village in Ituri province – where they often fight CODECO militia over gold mines control – killing 22 civilians and wounding 16 others, officials say.

Fighters from the notorious Zaire militia have killed 22 villagers and wounded 16 more attending a wake in Ituri province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), officials said.

Militiamen entered the village of Damas in the Mabendi area of Ituri's Djugu territory at around 11 pm on Friday night and killed 22 people, said DRC army spokesperson Lieutenant Jules Ngongo on Saturday.

"We condemn this attack," he said, adding that soldiers are currently pursuing the militants.

The Zaire militia describes itself as a self-defence group whose mission is to protect members of the Hema community against attacks from the CODECO militia representing the rival Lendu community.

The Lendu and Hema communities have a long-standing feud that led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before intervention by a European peacekeeping force.

Violence resumed in gold-rich Ituri in 2017, which has been blamed on the emergence of the CODECO.

Volatile region

Pilo Maka, the chief of a group of local villages, said that people in Damas had been attending a wake when Zaire militants appeared and started firing into the crowd.

He confirmed the death toll of 22 people and said that 16 more were gravely wounded.

The CODECO and Zaire militias often fight for control of gold mines in the area, Maka said, "without worrying" about civilian casualties.

Over 120 militant groups roam the DRC's troubled east, where militia attacks on civilians are routine.

For example, suspected rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces militia –– which Daesh describes as its central African affiliate –– killed 10 civilians in Ituri on Friday and Saturday.

DRC is also fighting notorious M23 rebels in the region, who it says are backed by neighbouring Rwanda, which denies the allegations.

The DRC's government put members of the security forces in charge of Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province last year in a bid to stem violence, but attacks have continued.

Source: AFP