BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo — More than 40 civilians were killed on Monday when a militia attacked a camp for displaced people in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official and the head of a civil society group said.
Jean Richard Lenga, chief of the Bahema Badjere district in Ituri Province, said members of the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo, or CODECO, massacred 46 people with knives and firearms and burned others in their homes in the middle of the camp.
The group claims to defend the interests of farmers from the Lendu ethnic group, who have long been in conflict with Hema herders, and its fighters have killed hundreds of civilians in Ituri and forced thousands to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.
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“The whole village is in mourning now, it’s too sad,” Mr. Lenga said, adding that the authorities were still searching for bodies. The local population has dispersed, he said, because many people fled to the nearby town of Bule, seeking safety.
Around 70,000 displaced people arrived in Bule between April 15 and May 15 because of the armed violence in the surrounding areas, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its most recent report. There are about 1.7 million internally displaced people in Ituri province, it said.
“We don’t have security here, we say it every day,” said Charite Banza, who provided the same death toll of 46 and said the victims would be buried in a mass grave.
Mr. Banza said the attack took place a few days after a dialogue between armed groups in Ituri, and that, “No reason for the bloody attack has yet been given.”
CODECO has frequently targeted displacement camps. It killed about 60 people at another camp near Bule last year, in one of its deadliest massacres.
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Maki Lombe, a resident of the Bahema-Nord chiefdom, said he had seen “more than 40 bodies” lying on the ground. He survived by fleeing during the night, he said.