Suspected Islamists kill 10 people with knives, machetes in Congo

BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo/GENEVA (Reuters) - Men armed with knives, machetes and pick-axes killed 10 people in an overnight attack on a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a witness and a local rights group said on Tuesday, blaming a Islamist militia.

Killings by armed groups more than doubled last year, according to the United Nations.

In late 2019 the Congo army began a campaign to eliminate the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militia that has been operating in the vast country since the 1990s. The ADF has responded with a rash of retaliatory massacres of civilians.

"We are now preparing for the burial of our fallen compatriots. They were executed," said Jean Manzekele, the head of Kalembo village in North Kivu, 45 km southeast of Beni.

"We realized that it was the ADF because of the way they attacked. They were shouting loudly in a foreign language which was difficult to understand."

The army said it had secured the village and was pursuing the attackers, who also injured two people.

Violence in the three eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu has "become part of a systematic pattern to disrupt civilians’ lives, instil fear and create havoc," UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said in Geneva on Tuesday.

People displaced by previous attacks have been targeted, Baloch told reporters.

"Attacks by armed groups are carried out on the suspicion of collaboration with other groups or the Congolese security forces. Civilians find themselves trapped in the middle of confrontations between different groups."

While the army’s operations against militia groups are more successful than in the past, they lack the capacity to maintain control of the areas they secure, leaving space for armed groups to return, Baloch said.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for several suspected ADF attacks in the past, but U.N. experts in the region? have found no direct link between the two groups.

(Reporting by Erkias Mwisi Kambale in Beni and Emma Farge in Geneva; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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