At least 18 people, including 14 civilians, have been killed in a rebel attack in Beni in Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive east, an army spokesperson told to a news agency on Sunday.
Four soldiers were among the dead following the attack on Saturday night, military official Mak Hazukai said, with witnesses describing gunfire and groups of assailants slashing victims with machetes.
The Beni region, not far from the Ugandan border, is under siege from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist rebel group blamed for hundreds of civilian deaths over the past four years.
“The territory and the city of Beni are facing ADF terrorism whose command structure is led by Ugandans,” said Hazukai, adding that nine people were also wounded in Saturday’s violence.
The ADF is a militia initially created by Muslim rebels to oppose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, but also operates in the DRC.
“The surprise attack happened in the streets of Beni city,” a doctor at the local hospital told AFP. Four of the dead were killed while travelling in a taxi. According to several witness accounts, the attack started around 1630-1700 GMT.
“There were lots of attackers, they gave a shout of joy… The rebels cut victims with a machete,” witness Kasero Mumbi said.
Heavy and light calibre gunfire was heard for several hours until after midnight local time. It was not known whether the armycounter-attacked. The rebels targeted areas near the centre of the city, home to several hundred thousand people.
“The people of North Kivu are suffering too much. This weekend again many innocent people have died,” Dutch AmbassadorRobert Schuddeboom said.
The ADF has been in the east of DR Congosince 1995 and is accused by the UN and Congolese authorities of committing a series of civilian massacres since 2014.
However, in 2015 the New York UniversityStudy Group on Congo said it was not just the ADF behind the killings and that other armed elements, including members of the Congolese army, were also to blame.
Beni is in North Kivu province, one of the most populated areas of the DRC, and home to a number of armed groups that kill or abduct civilians. Foreign humanitarian workers have been stationed in Beni since early August to deal with a new Ebola outbreak in the region.