The massacre was perpetrated by the armed militants from the so-called Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) early on Tuesday when they attacked Samboko Village, located about 100 kilometers southwest of the city of Bunia in the DR Congo, with machetes and looted the villagers’ food and valuables.
The ADF, which was driven out of Uganda and moved into the DR Congo in the late 1990s, had a day earlier killed at least 17 in the nearby village of Makutano.
More than 400 people have reportedly lost their lives in attacks by the ADF since the Congolese army began an offensive to oust the group from its bastions last year.
The ADF has pledged allegiance to the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group, and the latter has claimed responsibility for some ADF attacks in the DR Congo.
Over the past two months, about 200,000 people have fled their homes in Ituri Province — where the two villages recently attacked are located — due to the widespread violence by a variety of armed groups.
A United Nations (UN) report said in January that more than 700 people had been killed in Ituri since late 2017, adding that some of the killings might constitute a “crime against humanity.”
Researchers and rights groups say some Congolese soldiers have been involved in the killings since 2014 for a variety of motives often related to competition for power in the country’s lawless zones dominated by dozens of militia groups.
UN warns of possible war crimes in northeastern DR Congo
The UN warned on Wednesday that widespread and systematic killings, beheadings, sexual assaults, and other barbaric acts by militia mostly from the ethnic Lendu community in the northeastern DR Congo may constitute “crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) said in a report that in the six months to April 2020, at least 296 people had been killed, 151 wounded, and 38 raped, including women and children, mostly by militia linked to the CODECO rebels form the Lendu ethnic group.
“The persistence of this violence is likely to push members of the communities targeted by the attacks, who have so far shown restraint, to form self-defense militias,” UNJRHO said. “This could increase the likelihood of large-scale inter-communal violence in the region.”
“There is a high risk that leaders with more radical positions will emerge and plunge the area into a more serious cycle of violence, with even more attacks against (the army) and civilians,” UNJRHO added in the report.
Since October last year, the DR Congo’s army has launched a crackdown on armed groups and the ADF in particular to contain the violence and restore calm in the country’s eastern region.