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27.11.2019 Congo

Thirteen killed by suspected militia in troubled east DR Congo

By AFP
An angry crowd confronted peacekeepers at a UN compound on the outskirts of Beni on Monday. Local people accuse the UN mission in DR Congo of failing to protect them against the notorious ADF militia.  By Ushindi Mwendapeke Eliezaire (AFP)
NOV 27, 2019 CONGO
An angry crowd confronted peacekeepers at a UN compound on the outskirts of Beni on Monday. Local people accuse the UN mission in DR Congo of failing to protect them against the notorious ADF militia. By Ushindi Mwendapeke Eliezaire (AFP)

Thirteen people were killed Wednesday in eastern DR Congo by an armed group blamed for a string of massacres that have sparked deadly protests against the UN's peacekeeping mission, officials said.

Thirteen people near the town of Oicha, 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the city of Beni, were "killed at dawn," the spokesman for the UN mission MONUSCO told AFP, while local administrator Donat Kibwana said 14 bodies had arrived at the Oicha morgue.

"The army is already at the site and is pursuing" the attackers, Kibwana said by phone from Oicha.

Ninety-four civilians in the Beni area have been killed by armed groups since November 5, following the launch of an offensive by the country's army, according to the Congo Research Group (CRG), a not-for-profit organisation.

The "vast majority" of killings have been carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a notorious militia that has plagued eastern DR Congo since the 1990s, a CRG specialist said.

Fear and anger have prompted local people to take to the streets, accusing the authorities and MONUSCO of failing to protect them, in demonstrations that have led to six deaths.

MONUSCO said in the capital Kinshasa on Wednesday it was launching a probe after gaining evidence that its troops may have killed a demonstrator in Beni the previous day.

"The elements that we have indicate that it was Blue Helmets who were responsible for the death of this young man," a spokesman told AFP.

In a statement, MONUSCO quoted mission chief Leila Zerrougui as saying the man "was reportedly killed in an exchange with Blue Helmets as he was about to throw a petrol bomb".

On Monday, a crowd stormed one of the two UN camps near Beni and set fire to one of its offices.

Separately, a student was injured and 10 other people arrested on Wednesday as Congolese police broke up a demonstration outside the university in Goma, where anger also has boiled over.

"Our demonstration is patriotic. MONUSCO is standing on the sidelines as the massacres unfold, when its chief mission is to protect civilians," law student Fiston Muhindo told AFP.

"They have to go. MONUSCO is serving no purpose," said fellow law student Junior Mastaki, adding that the Congolese authorities were "incapable" of protecting the public.

MONUSCO problems

According to the CRG researchers, the ADF -- an Islamist group of Ugandan origin -- has killed more than a thousand civilians since October 2014.

MONUSCO, one of the biggest UN peacekeeping operations in the world, today comprises more than 16,500 military personnel and observers, 1,300 police and at least 4,000 civilians.

Map of Democratic Republic of Congo, locating Beni.  By  (AFP) Map of Democratic Republic of Congo, locating Beni. By (AFP)

But it has struggled to make headway in a vast country beset by armed groups as well as entrenched poverty and poor governance.

Responding to criticism of inaction, MONUSCO has pointed out that troops are unable to deploy in combat without the approval of the host country and in coordination with national forces.

On Monday, the Congolese armed forces told AFP that they had taken "all of (ADF's) strongholds and headquarters" in the forests around Beni.

The same day, the president's office announced the DRC and UN peacekeepers would launch "joint operations" to beef up security in Beni, and the Congolese army would establish an "advance headquarters" in the town.

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