A militant Islamic group with an expansionist agenda has killed at least 100 people, mostly Christian, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent weeks, according to a report by the persecution watchdog Open Doors.
More than 100 people were killed in three large attacks by the Islamic extremist group called Allied Democratic Forces in the Christian-majority country, Open Doors reported.
On Jan. 14, 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, about 22 civilians were estimated to be killed with guns and machetes in an overnight attack on Mwenda village in the Beni region of neighboring North Kivu province.
Militants from the Allied Democratic Forces, which is based in neighboring Uganda, 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.
The majority of those killed in the three attacks in the Beni region were Christians.
Islamic extremist groups have “a clear Islamic expansionist agenda,” Illia Djadi, an Open Doors spokesperson on freedom of religion or belief in sub-Saharan Africa, said. “It is a reminder of what is happening in other parts of the central Sahel region – groups like Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria, for example. The ideology, the agenda of establishing a ‘caliphate’ in the region, and the way they operate is the same, and we can see how they afflict terrible suffering on innocent people.”
Between Nov. 20 and Dec. 3 last year, men from the Allied Democratic Forces killed at least 30 Christians, raped 10 young women and girls, and abducted several others from churches in a string of attacks on five villages in North Kivu province, according to the Barnabas Fund.
Last October, militants believed to be from the Allied Democratic Forces killed at least 18 people, and burned down a church and several homes in an overnight attack in Baeti Village in the North Kivu province, Reuters reported at the time.
The Allied Democratic Forces was formed in 1996, merging several existing rebel groups.
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.”
DRC is at No. 40 on the Open Doors World Watch List 2021, up from No. 57 the previous year.