BUNIA, DR Congo, March 20, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - More than 20 civilians were reported killed in separate attacks in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where fighting also resumed over the weekend between the government and M23 insurgents, local sources told AFP on Sunday.
In Ituri province, CODECO militants -- a group claiming to protect the Lendu community from another ethnic group, the Hema -- was accused of targeting five villages in Mahagi early on Saturday.
"For now we've counted 15 dead, mainly women, children and old people," said Arnold Lokwa, a village chief.
At least nine people were reported killed at Nguli in neighbouring North Kivu by rebels in the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which is linked to the Islamic State jihadist group, village chief Kambale Kamboso said.
Two children were also missing after the attack, carried out with "machetes and knives," he told AFP.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on Niguli.
"Saturday, Islamic State fighters launched an armed attack on the village of Nguli," the jihadists said in a statement on their news agency Amaq.
The ADF, originally an insurgency in Uganda, gained a foothold in eastern DR Congo in the 1990s and has since been accused of killing thousands of civilians.
Further south in North Kivu, fighting also broke out Saturday between government forces and the M23 after several days of uneasy calm. A regional military force is deployed in the volatile region to try to tackle the unrest there.
The Tutsi-led rebel group has seized swathes of territory and advanced close to the regional hub of Goma, prompting the seven-nation East African Community (EAC) to authorise the deployment last November.
In a statement, the Congolese army said M23 fighters had attacked at least six of its positions, denouncing "repeated violations of a ceasefire" that had been due to come into effect on March 7.
Kinshasa and several Western governments say the M23 rebels are backed by Rwanda eyeing the natural resources across the border, a claim denied by Kigali.