Democratic Republic of Congo militiamen kill around 20 at displacement camp

Attacks by Codeco have killed hundreds of civilians in Ituri province's Djugu territory since 2017

Militiamen in the Democratic Republic of Congo have killed at least 20 people at a camp for displaced people, the government has said.

Fighters from the Codeco militia raided the village of Drodro on Sunday night.

National government spokesman Patrick Muyaya wrote on Twitter the death toll stood at around 20.

Jules Ngongo, a spokesman for Ituri's military government, told Reuters 12 civilians, six of them children, had been killed.

Repeated attacks by Codeco have killed hundreds of civilians in Ituri province's Djugu territory since 2017 and forced thousands to flee their homes, according to the UN.

Codeco fighters are drawn mainly from the Lendu farming community, which has long been in conflict with Hema herders.

"Their objective was to attack the population that was displaced in Drodro," Mr Ngongo said.

Others said the death toll was higher.

Ngabu Lidja Chrysante, a priest and co-ordinator for the Catholic charity Caritas in Ituri, said his colleagues on the ground had seen the bodies of 35 people killed in the attack, which also targeted the local church.

Kivu Security Tracker, which maps violence in the Congo, said it had confirmed 29 deaths. It had earlier reported 107 deaths but said that information turned out to be erroneous.

Thousands flee fighting

Mathias Gilman, the spokesperson for the UN mission in Congo, said at least 16,000 people fleeing the attacks had taken shelter at a nearby site protected by peacekeepers.

Codeco spokesman Patrick Basa denied the group had killed civilians. He told Reuters its fighters had clashed in Drodro with a Hema militia but said the civilians had already fled the area.

Conflict between Lendu and Hema from 1999 to 2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo.

Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province have been run by military officers since May when the government declared a state of siege in response to rampant violence. The killings have not shown any sign of abating since.

Updated: November 23rd 2021, 4:44 AM