Around three dozen people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo's troubled east, local officials said Tuesday, blaming the notorious ADF militia which has slaughtered hundreds of civilians over the past year.
Twenty-nine bodies were found in the Virunga Park after being "executed en masse", the interior minister of North Kivu province, Jean-Bosco Sebishimbo, said.
He added that six civilians were also killed during "an armed attack" in the nearby village of Kokola earlier on Tuesday.
The UN's MONUSCO mission confirmed that six people were killed in Kokola, while local sources spoke of seven dead.
"The first indications about the perpetrators of these vile acts point towards ADF fighters, who are very active in the area," Sebishimbo said.
Both attacks occurred in North Kivu's Beni territory, where 811 civilians have been killed since October 31 last year, according to the Kivu Security Tracker.
It was on that date that DR Congo's army launched a large operation against the ADF's leaders and bases in the jungle around Beni.
The militia responded by intensifying a campaign of massacres in rural areas, seeking to dissuade civilians from collaborating with the military, experts say.
"The horror of this macabre new discovery cannot leave anyone indifferent," said the European Union's ambassador to the DRC, Marc Chataigner.
The ADF, which originated in the 1990s as an Ugandan Muslim rebel group, is one of more than 100 militias that plague the eastern provinces of the vast country.
The ADF has never claimed responsibility for attacks. But since April 2019, several of its assaults have been claimed by the so-called Islamic State's Central Africa Province, without providing proof.