At least 16 people were knifed to death in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s east, weeks after being kidnapped, in a bloodbath blamed on armed Islamists, military and local sources said Tuesday. According to local civilian sources, the victims, who included two women, were being held by members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group linked to the Islamic State group, which the US claims.
According to local official Dieudonne Malangai, the hostages were killed along a main highway near Idohu in the restive Ituri province.
Ituri’s military governor Johnny Luboya Nkashama speaking in Komanda, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the slaughter, condemned the killings.
“We will reinforce our presence in the region,” he told a meeting with local residents.
“Helicopters are already on the scene and other military personnel are on their way with trucks and munitions to assure security in the region and to organise safe convoys along this road,” the governor added.
He promised to return in a month to reevaluate the situation in the area, where thousands have fled their homes to avoid the violence.
“The objective is to clean up the area completely and allow the population to return to the villages,” Nkashama told a sceptical crowd at a public meeting.
“It was hoped that the state of siege would restore security but people continue to die every day,” he added.
In May, the government of the vast central African country declared Ituri and the neighbouring North Kivu province under siege, in an effort to step up the fight against armed groups.
The ADF is the most lethal of the region’s dozens of militias.
It began as an armed Ugandan Muslim group and has been active for 30 years in the mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
According to the DRC’s Catholic Church, the ADF has killed approximately 6,000 civilians since 2013, while a respected US-based monitor, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), has blamed it for over 1,200 deaths in the Beni area alone since 2017.