Eastern Congo hit by rebel attacks; 45 civilians killed

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By Associated Press

GOMA: The death toll from several attacks this week by extremist rebels in eastern Congo has risen to at least 45 people, local officials said on Friday.

Dozens of people were killed by rebels using machetes over two days when rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces, a militia with links to the Islamic State group, killed civilians in several villages in North Kivu province, said Saidi Balikwisha, the province’s deputy.

“Here, three or four days don’t go by without us recording deaths, the result of barbarity of the ADF terrorists. That is why once again, we repeat, we need a considerable military force to come that can contribute to the restoration of peace,” he said.

Little has been done to help others whose homes were burned down by the rebels, he said.

Conflict has been simmering in eastern Congo for decades as more than 120 armed groups fight for power, influence and resources and some to protect their communities. The ADF has been largely active in North Kivu province but has recently extended its operations into neighboring Ituri province and to areas near the regional capital, Goma.

The ADF rebels are accused by the U.N. and rights groups of targeting, maiming, raping and abducting civilians, including children. Earlier this month the United States offered a reward of up to $5 million for information that could lead to the capture of the group’s leader, Seka Musa Baluku.

On Thursday, AP reporters saw bodies lowered into a mass grave in Mukondi where more than 30 people were killed by gunshots, knives and machetes, according to authorities. Community members shovelled dirt over the bodies against a backdrop of destroyed houses.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo condemned the killings and is urging Congo’s authorities to investigate and bring those responsible to justice.