Islamic extremists kill 18 civilians, set fire to homes in night raid in eastern Congo

JOHN WESSELS/AFP via Getty Images
JOHN WESSELS/AFP via Getty Images

In a night raid, suspected militants from the Islamic extremist group Allied Democratic Forces killed at least 18 civilians and burned down many houses in a village in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to media reports.

The attack occurred in Otomabere village in Ituri province’s Irumu area late at night last Sunday, leaving at least 18 people dead, Nigeria’s newspaper The Guardian reported.

“We were chatting with some friends outside when we heard gunshots and everyone fled in a different direction. It was total panic,” Kimwenza Malembe, a resident of Otomabere, was quoted as saying. “This morning we counted 18 dead, killed by knives and firearms.”

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The ADF, which is a Ugandan militia that started operating in the DRC during the 1990s, killed about 1,300 people between January 2021 and January 2022, according to a United Nations report. It was formed in 1996, merging several existing rebel groups.

In January 2021, more than 100 people were killed in three large attacks in the same province by the ADF, Open Doors reported at the time.

About 46 people belonging to the Pygmy ethnic group were killed in Ituri province by suspected militants of the extremist group, which is known for attacking, kidnapping and killing Christians, as well as training and sending jihadists to other countries in Africa.

The roughly half a million Pygmy people face extensive persecution and discrimination in the country, Open Doors noted.

On Jan. 4, 2021, about 22 civilians were killed by militants wielding guns and machetes in an overnight attack on Mwenda village in the Beni region of neighboring North Kivu province.

ADF militants killed 25 more people in Tingwe village in the same region the same day.

At least 17 nearby villagers had been murdered with machetes a week earlier in Mwenda village.

In a 2020 report, the U.N. acknowledged that “widespread, systematic and extremely brutal” human rights abuses by the Islamic militant group “could constitute, by their nature and scope, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

While the militant group has not formally linked itself with the Islamic State terrorist group, IS has claimed responsibility for some of their attacks, calling Congo the “Central Africa Province” of the “caliphate.”

The government of Ugandan has sent over 1,700 troops to the Congo to help fight ADF militants.

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