The death toll in rebel attacks in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo over the weekend shot up from seven to 24 as more bodies were found, a civil society group said on Monday.
Some 15 more people remain missing after attacks in North Kivu province’s Beni region that have been blamed on Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels.
The first attack on Saturday targeted a locality called Mamove, while another later that night was reported in an area on the Beni-Kasindi road leading to the border with Uganda.
“The provisional death toll was seven, including women and men, but it climbed after more bodies were found in three surrounding villages,” said Kinos Katuho, head of a civil society group in Mamove.
Several villages were torched in the attacks, he added.
The situation remains volatile in several villages “because the army has switched attention to fighting M23 rebels,” said Katuho, calling for an immediate military operation in Beni.
Col. Charles Omeanga, military administrator for Beni, also confirmed the weekend assaults.
However, he urged locals to stay calm and said the “ADF rebels are being pursued.”
The group has carried out attacks in eastern DR Congo for over two decades, with joint operations launched by Congolese and Ugandan forces last November doing little to improve the situation.
Amid relentless insecurity and deadly violence, the East African Community regional group last week approved the formation of a joint military force to secure peace in DR Congo.
ADF: From Uganda to DR Congo
The ADF was formed in Uganda in the early 1990s with the aim of ousting long-serving President Yoweri Museveni, whom the rebels accused of persecuting Muslims.
After a major offensive by the Ugandan army in 2001, the group relocated to North Kivu in DR Congo, where it has been blamed for thousands of deaths over the past two decades.
The ADF re-emerged as a major threat in 2014 with a wave of attacks on Congolese civilians, before pledging allegiance to the Daesh/ISIS terrorist group in 2019.
Last year, the US placed the ADF on its list of Daesh/ISIS affiliates.