In a bloodbath blamed on armed Islamists, at least 16 people were knifed to death weeks after being kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east, military and local sources said on Tuesday.
According to local civilian sources, the victims, who included two women, were held captive by members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group linked to the Islamic State by the US.
According to local official Dieudonne Malangai, the hostages were killed along a main highway near Idohu, in the restive Ituri province.
The killings were condemned by Ituri’s military governor, Johnny Luboya Nkashama, who spoke in Komanda, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the slaughter.
At a meeting with local residents, he said, “We will strengthen our presence in the region.”
“Helicopters have already arrived on the scene, and other military personnel with trucks and munitions are on their way to ensure regional security and to organize safe convoys along this road,” the governor added.
He promised to return in a month to assess the situation in the area, where tens of thousands of people have fled their homes to escape the violence.
“The goal is to completely clean up the area and allow the population to return to the villages,” Nkashama said at a public meeting to a skeptical audience.
“It was hoped that the siege would bring security back, but people are still dying every day,” he added.
In May, the government of the vast central African country declared Ituri and the neighboring North Kivu provinces to be under siege, in an effort to step up the fight against armed groups.
Meanwhile, an army spokesman reported that an intelligence officer was lynched in North Kivu while attempting to apprehend an alleged ADF accomplice.
In Beni, where the murder took place, army spokesman Antony Mualushayi said, “Agent Olivier Sombo Gonza was killed by a mob by lynching.”
According to the spokesman, he was on a mission to apprehend a woman suspected of facilitating an attack that killed a dozen people last month.
Following that, the suspect and three others were apprehended.
The ADF is the most lethal of the region’s numerous militias.
It began as an armed Ugandan Muslim group and has spent the last 30 years operating in the mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Catholic Church in the DRC claims the ADF has killed around 6,000 civilians since 2013, while the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a respected US-based monitor, claims the ADF is responsible for over 1,200 deaths in the Beni area alone since 2017.