Fighters believed to belong to the ADF militia have killed at least 12 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo's east, local sources said Sunday.
The gruesome attack took place overnight Friday-Saturday after a month of relative calm in the area.
"Fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces massacred farmers from the village of Mabule in their fields," Donat Kibuana, the administrator of the Beni region in North Kivu province, told AFP.
At least eight men and four women "had their throats savagely slit in their fields by these ADF terrorists," said Roger Masimango, from a local network of civil society groups.
"We're still searching, because we aren't hearing from some of the farmers," he added.
An expert in the area, who asked to remain anonymous, said 14 bodies had been found and more people were missing after the assault.
An army offensive launched in the Rwenzori mountain region had caused a "relative decline" in the number of deadly attacks since early January, administrator Kibuana said.
He added that "many villages are empty" of people who have fled the fighting.
But the ADF -- one of the most violent among dozens of armed groups in the eastern DRC -- is believed to have killed 21 civilians on February 5 in Rwenzori.
The UN's human rights office in the DRC said Wednesday that defence and security forces had made "significant efforts to dismantle" the militia.
Nevertheless, it said 468 deaths in the east were attributed to the group in the second half of 2020, including 108 women and 15 children.
Originally Ugandan Muslim rebels, the ADF settled in the DRC in 1995.
In recent years they have given up on attacks in neighbouring Uganda, but have carried out repeated massacres in the Beni region of the DRC, killing more than 1,000 people since October 2014.