Death toll in refugee camp attack in DR Congo climbs to 50
2 militia groups blamed for attack on internally displaced people's camp in Ituri province
The death toll in an attack on a refugee camp in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has climbed to 50, the government said Wednesday.
Initial reports by a crisis mapping NGO, the Kivu Security Tracker, had said 40 people had been killed Tuesday when two opposing armed militia groups attacked a displacement camp in Ituri province.
The government strongly condemns the deadly attack on the site for displaced persons located in Djugu territory, in Ituri province on Tuesday night by CODECO (Cooperative for the Development of Congo) terrorists, a statement by the Communications Ministry said, adding the lives of about 50 of our compatriots were lost before the attack was stopped by the government forces.
“The government offers its condolences to the families affected by this massacre, a crime against humanity. It reassures the people of the unfailing determination of our army to ensure peace, restore security and state authority in this part of the country,” it added.
The provincial government of Ituri had been instructed to ensure the payment of burial costs and a dignified funeral for the victims as well as appropriate medical care for the injured.***
The attack in which 40 other people were wounded was blamed on militiamen from the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) and the Union of Revolutionaries for the Defense of the Congolese People (URDPC), two of the country’s armed groups.
“The victims were killed using machetes last night in Djugu territory, Ituri. CODECO and URDPC are suspected,” the Kivu Security Tracker said in a statement.
The Congolese army initially put the death toll at around 20.
“Attacking innocent civilians without means of defense in a displaced people’s camp is madness, cowardice, and a crime against humanity,” said Jules Ngongo, a spokesman for the army in the region.
He vowed that those responsible for the heinous crime will be apprehended and punished.
The security forces remain determined to prosecute outlaws, he said, adding that it is unacceptable that Ituri’s children are killed by Ituri’s sons.
The CODECO intensified attacks on villages in camps in Ituri in November. The militia destroyed nearly 1,300 houses in one such attack, according to local authorities.
In a statement Wednesday, the Ituri Parliamentary Caucus called on the UN to blacklist the CODECO militia as a terrorist organization.***
Since May, the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu have been under “siege.”
President Felix Tshisekedi has declared a “state of siege” and replaced senior civilian officials in the state with army officers in a bid to curb the growing insecurity.
However, rights activists and politicians say the siege has had little impact in curbing violence.
In recent days, police have been fighting protestors in the affected districts who are demanding the state of siege be lifted.