BENI, Congo (AP) — Rebels have killed at least 36 people in attacks on villages in eastern Congo, a local official and civil society group said Thursday.
The Allied Democratic Forces rebels attacked overnight Tuesday into Wednesday in four villages, including Manzingi and Maleki, in Beni territory, said Beni administrator Donat Kibwana.
“I ask the people to calm down and denounce any suspicious person,” he said. “We would like the army to strengthen its presence here.”
Residents have expressed growing frustration with the inability of Congolese soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers to protect civilians from the attacks.
The ADF originated in Uganda and has long been a threat in eastern Congo. The Islamic State group recently claimed some attacks carried out by ADF rebels but the exact relationship between the two groups is not entirely clear.
At least 292 civilians have been killed in such attacks since Oct. 30, according to Omar Kavota with the local human rights group CEPADHO.
The attackers reportedly went door to door, killing people in their homes. They also looted goats, chickens and other valuables, according to the rights group.
The army heard of the attacks only after the attackers withdrew from the villages, the group said. Bodies were being gathered and prepared for burial, Kavota said.
A church leader was killed in another attack Wednesday morning in the village of Bunake before soldiers repelled the attackers, the statement said.
The attacks were likely in retaliation for the recent killing of many suspected extremists in the region, the rights group said.