Militiamen killed at least 20 people, including children during an attack on displaced civilians in the northeastern Ituri province of Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday night, a military spokesperson said on Monday.
Jules Ngongo, a spokesperson for Ituri’s military government said the objective of the attack by fighters from the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) group was to attack the population that was displaced in Drodro.
CODECO spokesperson Patrick Basa denied the group had killed civilians.
CODECO’s fighters are majorly from the Lendu farming community, which has long been in conflict with Hema herders.
According to the United Nations, attacks by CODECO since 2017 have killed hundreds of civilians in Ituri province’s Djugu territory and forced thousands to flee their homes.
The government since May declared a state of siege in response to rampant violence in Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province that have been run by military officers. But the killings have not shown any sign of reduction since then.
Local groups said the death toll was higher.
Ngabu Lidja Chrysante, a priest and coordinator for the Catholic charity Caritas in Ituri, said his colleagues on the ground had seen the bodies of 35 people killed in the attack while Kivu Security Tracker said it had confirmed 29 deaths.
Mathias Gilman, the spokesperson for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, said at least 16,000 people fleeing the attacks had taken shelter at a nearby site protected by peacekeepers.