Militia ambush kills 11 in DR Congo's troubled Ituri region

AFP , Sunday 5 Jul 2020

Eleven people including military, police and an administrative official were killed Saturday in an ambush attributed to a local militia in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, official sources said Sunday.

Two vehicles coming from Bunia, the capital of Ituri province, were ambushed in the village of Matete, Djugu territory administrator Adel Alingi Mokuba said.

"The death toll is 11, including the deputy territorial administrator in charge of economy and finance, three policemen and four soldiers," he told AFP.

The killings were the latest attributed to an ethnic militia called CODECO, the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo.

On Friday, DR Congo's army said it had killed seven fighters of the militia, which claims to defend the interests of the Lendu ethnic group.

The Lendu are predominantly sedentary farmers and have historically clashed with the Hema community of traders and herders.

Ituri is one of several provinces gripped by militia violence in eastern DR Congo, a country the size of continental western Europe.

Between October and the end of May, at least 531 civilians were killed by armed groups in Ituri, including 375 since March, according to the United Nations.

In January, the UN estimated that 701 people had been killed in the region since December 2017.

"These acts could constitute crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court," ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warned on June 4.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has accused CODECO and other Lendu fighters of pursuing "a strategy of slaughtering local residents -- mainly the Hema, but also the Alur -- since 2017" in order to control natural resources in the region.

Tens of thousands of people were killed in Hema-Lendu fighting between 1999 and 2003 and violence resumed for unclear reasons at the end of 2017.

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