Six Christians, including a 9-year-old child, were reportedly killed in a recent attack in a predominantly Christian village in the northeast Democratic Republic of Congo.
Open Doors USA, a Christian persecution watchdog nonprofit active in 60 countries, reports that nearly 500 families fled from their homes when rebel forces attacked the largely Christian village of Kalau near the city of Beni in DRC’s North Kivu province.
The attack reportedly lasted about four hours and is believed to have been perpetrated by the Allied Democratic Forces, a militant group active in the North Kivu province of the DRC and Uganda.
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.
Sources with knowledge of the attack in Kalau told the charity that the attackers pretended to be security agents when they arrived in the village.
The imposters reached the village center before there was any suspicion that they weren’t who they said they were. By that point, the rebels began firing their weapons at the villagers. Among those killed in the attack are the 9-year-old child and at least three women.
“A nurse in the Nyankunde hospital in Beni told Open Doors by phone that the attackers then proceeded toward the house of the village head,” the Open Doors report states. “When they shot dead the guard dogs, the gunfire sent people running. Two villagers attempting to flee were killed.”
Pastor Gilbert Kambale, who operates a civil society organization based in Beni, told Open Doors that 470 Congo families fled to Beni following the incident.
Many of the families were sheltered by host families or were given refuge inside of schools in Beni’s Beu Commune.
The Beni area is no stranger to violence caused by the ADF as hundreds of civilians have been killed in the area over the past five years.
According to Open Doors, ADF is believed to have killed at least 700 civilians and more than 20 United Nations peacekeepers
In August 2016, ADF was blamed for carrying out what is known as the “Beni massacre,” where at least 64 were hacked to death.
Open Doors expects that more violence is likely to come in the future.
“We have heard the rebels saying they worked for long in the domains of kidnapping and killings, but now they want to move to the stage of occupying the territory,” a local community leader told Open Doors. “They want to occupy the area they claim as theirs.”
The North Kivu province is also in the midst of an eight-month Ebola outbreak. ADF forces are blamed for hampering Ebola relief efforts and attacks against Ebola treatment centers. At least one clinic was burned down.
According to Eleanor Beevor from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, ADF is thought to be responsible for the killings of at least 249 people in 2018.
According to the Congo Research Group at New York University, an ADF member posted at least 35 videos on private social media channels that either mentioned or showed militant attacks, contained Quranic readings, and images of indoctrination and propaganda messages, between 2016 and 2017.
Conflict has plagued Africa's second largest nation for decades. According to the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision, at least 2.1 million people in DRC were newly displaced in 2017 and 2018. With about 4.5 million displaced, DRC has the highest number of internally displaced people in Africa.