Rebels kill more than 180 civilians in eastern DRC: rights group

16 December 2014 - 14:22 By Sapa-dpa
Map of DR Congo. File photo
Map of DR Congo. File photo
Image: Google Maps

Unidentified rebels killed more than 180 civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in the past 10 weeks, Human Rights Watch said.

Many civilians were shot dead, while others were hacked to death with axes and machetes in numerous villages around the city of Beni, which borders Virunga National Park and is closely located to the border with Uganda.

"Large-scale rebel attacks occurring nearly weekly have terrorized residents of Beni and left them uncertain where to seek safety," said Ida Sawyer, Congo researcher for the international human rights watchdog.

The attacks were likely carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist rebel group opposed to the Ugandan government and which has been active in Beni territory since 1996, UN and Congolese army officials told HRW.

The ADF, which is hiding in the mountainous forest areas of the border region, has been responsible for numerous attacks and kidnappings in the area over the past years.

HRW researchers interviewed more than 70 victims and witnesses of the attacks that took place between October 5 and December 6.

"Many bodies were in the chief's compound. Some were killed on the road, others were scattered," said a 30-year-old man, who had witnessed a massacre in the village of Vemba on November 20.

"I wasn't paying attention to all the bodies, just those of people I knew. I was afraid [the attackers] would come back. They were all killed by axes to the head," he continued.

A farmer, 35, told HRW about an attack on the village of Linzosisene on October 5. "One of the fighters ... pulled a knife from his bag. We were with a 14-year-old girl, and he killed her. He cut her up and put her body parts in a bag."

"There was a second girl, and they cut the lower part of her face off ... Then they told the rest of us who were there: 'Go lie down on the ground'. Then they started stabbing us. After they did all this, I lost consciousness and thought I was dead," the farmer added.

A 32-year-old man from Beni said he saw his wife and son being killed when rebels attacked his house on November 1.

"I saw them approaching through the bedroom window, and I hid under the bed. My wife ran into the attackers in the hallway, and they immediately shot her and then chopped her in the hip with an axe," he said. "They pulled back the mosquito net in the kids' room and shot dead my oldest son who was lying on the bed."