On May 26th, suspected Islamist militants killed at least 22 civilians with knives and machetes in an overnight raid on villages near the town of Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Just over three weeks ago the government declared martial law in North Kivu and Ituri, two provinces bordering Uganda.
A four-month-old baby was found alive on the back of one of the victims, one of seven children from the same family believed to have been orphaned in the latest violence that hit a number of villages around 40 km east of Beni.
Jean-Paul Katembo, head of the Bulongo commune, said the known death toll stood at 22. Several more villagers are believed to have been kidnapped.
He said that responsibility was born by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Ugandan militia active in eastern Congo since the 1990s.
More than 1,200 civilians have been killed in Beni territory since November 2019, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, when the army began an operation aimed at ending the ADF’s insurgency.
The offensive uprooted the ADF from its bases and it split into smaller groups, but the armed group responded by stepping up reprisal attacks against civilians.
On May 17 Uganda announced it had agreed to share intelligence and coordinate operations against the rebels, but that it would not be deploying troops in Congo.
The move came a week after Congolese officials said the two countries would set up an operations center in Eastern Congo to fight the rebels, known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
“Definitely, there will be coordination, sharing intelligence, sharing information and all sorts of security nature kind of activities,” Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso, spokeswoman for the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) said.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, following a meeting in Paris with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, also affirmed collaboration with Congo in fighting rebels.
“We will also be alongside the DRC for all the initiatives put in place to strengthen security in the east of its territory, which borders our country,” Kagame said.
In March, the United States labelled the ADF a foreign terrorist organisation because of alleged links to the Islamic State group, although the United Nations has played down the strength and nature of IS influence in Congo.
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