Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 30 people overnight in attacks on villages in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials and civil society leaders said on Wednesday.
Four villages were raided by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group, in the west of Beni territory, which has seen a surge of violence since Oct. 30, when the army launched an large-scale offensive against the rebels.
Local administrator Richard Kivanzanga said 32 people had been killed in the attacks to the west of the city of Oicha.
Among the victims was an Anglican pastor in the village of Eringeti, said Omar Kavota from local rights group CEPADHO.
“The victim had the misfortune to pass them on his way to the field with his wife,” Kavota said in a statement.
In December, President Felix Tshisekedi said he had sent 22,000 troops to fight the ADF, including special forces, and that they had succeeded in dismantling nearly all of the ADF’s bases.
Attacks have eased in January, but in total at least 265 people have been killed since November, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, a research initiative that maps unrest in Congo’s restive east, where the ADF has been operating for more than two decades.
Several previous ADF attacks have been claimed by Islamic State, although researchers and analysts say there is a lack of hard evidence linking the two groups.
The United States imposed sanctions on the leader of the ADF and five others in December for perpetrating serious human rights abuses including mass rape, torture and killings.