KINSHASA (Reuters) - At least 27 people were killed and another seven people seriously injured in overnight raids on villages near the eastern Congolese town of Beni, local officials said on Thursday.
Julien Paluku, governor of North Kivu province, blamed the attack on Ugandan ADF-NALU rebels that operate alongside a string of other local and foreign armed groups in Democratic Republic of Congo’s mineral-rich eastern border zone.
A Congolese military source, who asked not to be named, said houses were burned and some of the victims were decapitated.
The mayor of Beni declared a day of mourning.
Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, expressed concern at a spike in violence in the region and said U.N. troops would remain committed to supporting government troops defeating all rebel groups in the east, including ADF-NALU.
The Congolese army, backed by U.N. forces, launched an offensive last December against ADF-NALU following attacks by the group that killed 21 civilians. The strikes have severely crippled the group’s operational capacity, Kobler said earlier this year.
Paluku said the government was re-examining the threat posed by ADF-NALU. But he said the group was still limited in numbers.
“These are not battalions. These are people that infiltrate villages to kill people,” he said.
The U.N. mission said on Wednesday that ADF-NALU fighters had killed 15 people, including six children between the ages of 7 and 17, in raids in the same area from Oct. 5 to Oct. 8.
Over 35,000 people had been forced from their homes across the province of North Kivu during the last six weeks, it estimates.
Violence has simmered in eastern Congo despite U.N. peacekeepers and government troops last year defeating an insurgency that posed the most serious threat to Kinshasa’s authority since Congo’s last war officially ended in 2003.
Reporting by Aaron Ross in Kinshasa; David Lewis and Bate Felix in Dakar; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Hugh Lawson