Bunia, DR Congo | AFP | Six civilians were killed in attacks in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo where violence has claimed at least 130 lives since December, a local official said Saturday.
Since late last year, scores of people have been killed in a flareup of clashes involving the Hema and Lendu communities, cattle herders and farmers who have a long history of violence over access to land.
“Assailants attacked the localities of Penyi, de Dz’lo and de Mbachulu. Until now, we have found six dead and several wounded,” said Mande Lonema, head of an area of the Walendu district where cattle herders and farmers from the Lendu communities live.
The attacks in the volatile Ituri province took place overnight Thursday to Saturday and casualties were continuing “to arrive (and) firing can be heard”, he added.
Locals told AFP they believed the army had struck a deal with the attackers although this was denied.
“These are false allegations. We are a professional army… everywhere where they are enemies we go on the offensive,” said Jules Ngongo, the army’s spokesman in Ituri.
The latest bout of violence has so far claimed at least 130 lives, according to an unofficial toll compiled by AFP, while the UN says more than 57,000 people have fled the bloodshed, crossing the border into neighbouring Uganda.
In 2003, another surge of violence in Ituri triggered Operation Artemis, a three-month operation by the European Union — its first military mission outside Europe. The operation averted a humanitarian catastrophe, but the fighting never came to a total halt.
The full scale of the latest violence in the remote province remains unclear.
The conflict is part of a broader background of violence and instability in eastern DR Congo.