Bunia, DR Congo | AFP | UN peacekeepers have found eight decomposing bodies in a village in the volatile Ituri province of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the agency told AFP on Friday.
A local official said the eight had been killed during a March 12-13 attack on Djugu area in which at least 30 people were killed by assailants using guns, machetes and arrows.
“MONUSCU peacekeepers found eight lifeless, decomposing bodies in a village in the Djugu area yesterday,” said Guy Karema, a spokesman for the UN mission who is based in Bunia, capital of the Ituri region which has been blighted by ethnic strife.
The discovery was made after the peacekeepers were tipped off by a group of people who said they themselves had been in hiding “for more than a week,” he said.
Local chief Pilo Molindro said the eight were “victims of the latest attacks” in Djugu, which took place after a visit to the area by Interior Minister Henri Mova.
“Seven people who escaped (the violence) and who spent nine days hiding in the bush, have been found,” he said.
Djugu lies about 75 kilometres northwest of Bunia.
Since December, 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.
The 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.
It was in Djugu that the most recent attack took place, with at least 30 people killed there on March 13 following a visit to the area by Interior Minister Henri Mova.
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 bout of violence in the remote province remains unclear.
The conflict is part of a broader background of violence and instability in eastern DR Congo.