The United Nations on Thursday reported a deadly new attack in volatile northeastern Congo by the same local militia blamed for killing nearly 50 people recently discovered in mass graves.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the latest attack took place overnight Wednesday at a camp for displaced people and reportedly killed seven people and sent many others fleeing from the site.
U.N. peacekeepers deployed immediately after the overnight attack to secure the camp, 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) east of Djugu in Ituri province, and deter further violence, he said.
The attack followed the discovery of mass graves containing the bodies of 49 civilians in two other villages about (19 miles) 30 kilometers east of the town of Bunia in Ituri. The same local militia CODECO — Cooperative for the Development of Congo — has been blamed for the killings.
A total of 42 victims, including six children, were found in a mass grave in the village of Nyamamba, while the bodies of seven other men were found in another village, Mbogi, Haq said Tuesday.
“These incidents are the latest in a string of violent attacks on civilians over the past few weeks, severely impacting civilians and humanitarian operations in Djugu and neighboring Mahagi,” Haq said. “This adds to an already dire humanitarian situation in Ituri Province, which currently hosts 1.5 million displaced people.”
Wednesday’s overnight attack came almost a year after the last violent attack in the camp area in February 2022, which left close to 50 people dead, Haq said.
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, according to the United Nations.
Haq said U.N. peacekeepers, whose main mission is protection of civilians, are deployed around Ituri, which is a very large province.
“In this case, these were fairly separate locations,” he explained. “Nyamamba and Mbogi are about 30 kilometers away from the town of Bunia and the camp for the displaced that was attacked Wednesday night is about 75 kilometres from Bunia. So it’s a wide sweep of land. It takes some effort to get there.”