Congo: 49 bodies found in mass graves after militia attacks

Scenes from a church that was bombed by the Islamic State Militia in Eastern Congo. [VOA]

Mass graves containing the bodies of 49 civilians have been discovered in northeastern Congo after a series of weekend attacks blamed on a local militia, the United Nations said Wednesday.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York that the graves had been uncovered in two villages in Ituri province, about (19 miles) 30 kilometers east of the town of Bunia.

A total of 42 victims, including six children, had been discovered in a mass grave in the village of Nyamamba, while the bodies of seven other men were found in another village, Mbogi, Haq added.

"Peacekeepers launched a patrol to the area immediately after receiving reports of attacks on civilians by the CODECO militias over the weekend. This is when they made the gruesome discoveries," Haq said in New York.

Local authorities have said that CODECO - Cooperative for the Development of Congo - militants also abducted a number of women during the attacks on the villages.

Last June, seven CODECO factions announced an end to violence against civilians in Ituri, mainly in the Djugu territory where they were very active. Yet they have gradually resumed with attacks in the area.

At least 195 people have been killed since December in a series of attacks blamed on the CODECO militia and other armed groups, the U.N. said. More than 1.5 million people in Ituri province have been displaced by fighting.