Suspected Islamist militants hacked to death over 30 people, including an Anglican pastor, in overnight attacks on villages in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On Tuesday, four villages were raided by the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist group, in the west of Beni territory, Reuters reports. The rebel group has its origins in Uganda but is now based in DR Congo's Beni region.
Beni Governor Donat Kibwana told AFP that members of the terrorist group hacked all victims to death with machetes. In total, 36 individuals were killed, including an Anglican pastor.
The main attack took place in Manzingi, a village northwest from Oicha, while the pastor was killed in the village of Eringeti.
"The victim had the misfortune to pass them on his way to the field with his wife," Omar Kavota from rights group CEPADHO said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Launched in the mid-1990s by Ugandan Muslim rebels forced out of Uganda, the ADF has become the conflict-stricken DRC’s most active and violent rebel group over the past two years. Led by Musa Baluku, the group is known for committing crimes such as murder, rape and abduction of women and children, as well as slavery and indoctrination.
The Beni region has seen a surge of violence since Oct. 30 when Congolese troops launched an offensive against the rebels. In total, 265 people have been killed by the ADF since November, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, a research initiative that maps unrest in Congo's east.
Persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA notes that the operation to push ADF out the area has come at great cost to the mostly Christian population.
In November 2019, attacks carried out by the ADF killed at least 84 people, including men, women and children. Over half of the victims were Christians.
In March, six Christians, including a 9-year-old child, were reportedly killed when rebel forces attacked the largely Christian village of Kalau near the city of Beni. Additionally, 500 families were forced to flee from their homes.
In August 2016, ADF was blamed for carrying out what is known as the “Beni massacre,” where at least 64 people were hacked to death.
Pastor Gilbert Kambale, president of the Beni city civil society organization, urged the international community to pray to God for deliverance for Beni and the DRC.
“Even as the night is long, day will surely dawn,” Gilbert told Open Doors.
In December, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the leader of the ADF and five others for perpetrating serious human rights abuses including mass rape, torture and killings, Reuters reported.
According to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, Baluku assisted the group “through recruitment, logistics, administration, financing, intelligence, and operations coordination.”
The ADF “continues to perpetuate widespread violence and innumerable human rights abuses including the abduction, recruitment, and use of children during attacks and other violent operations."