Mass graves containing the bodies of 49 civilians have been discovered in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] after a series of weekend attacks blamed on a local militia, the United Nations said.
UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York on Wednesday that the graves had been uncovered in two villages in Ituri province, about 30 kilometres east of the town of Bunia.
A total of 42 victims, including six children, had been discovered in a mass grave in the village of Nyamamba, while the bodies of seven other men were found in another village, Mbogi, Haq added.
“Peacekeepers launched a patrol to the area immediately after receiving reports of attacks on civilians by the CODECO militias over the weekend. This is when they made the gruesome discoveries,” Haq said in New York.
Local authorities have said that CODECO — Cooperative for the Development of Congo — militants also abducted a number of women during the attacks on the villages.
Displacements in Ituri
Ituri, a restive province bordering Uganda, has seen a spate of violence in recent weeks, after the killing of a teacher belonging to the Lendu community triggered reprisal attacks from the CODECO militants, which claims to represent the ethnic group.
Last June, seven CODECO factions announced an end to violence against civilians in Ituri, mainly in the Djugu territory, where they were very active.
Yet they have gradually resumed attacks in the area.
In September, the militant group burned over 300 homes and killed at least 17 people when they stormed Mbidjo in Ituri province’s Djugu territory.
At least 195 people have been killed since December in a series of attacks blamed on the CODECO militia and other armed groups, the UN said.
Dieudonne Lossa, a human rights activist in Ituri said over 80 civilians have been killed there since early January.
More than 1.5 million people in Ituri province have been displaced by fighting.