Armed men in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed at least 60 people, including 15 children, the latest in a series of violent assaults on civilians in the country.
Reports said the Plaine Savo camp in Ituri province, east of the country was attacked by men armed with machetes and guns on Wednesday.
Local sources who spoke to Reuters blamed the militia group Cooperative for the Development of Congo, or Codeco, for the attack.
The camp is home to 24,000 people who had left their homes and sought safety from violence. Following the attack the refugees moved to the nearby UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said two students at a school it supports in the camp were killed and called on Congolese authorities to ensure the safety of people in the area.
“Plaine Savo is populated by families – vulnerable families – who have fled similar violence with their children and are seeking only the right to live in peace,” said Caitlin Brady, NRC’s country director.
“There has never been and never will be any justification for attacks on civilians. Those responsible must be held to account.”
Edouard Beigbeder, Unicef’s representative in DRC, added: “This pitiless atrocity is evidence of the brutal scale of violence in Ituri, which preys on already vulnerable children.”
MONUSCO condemned the violence and sent peacekeepers to the camp.
Violence has been escalating in Ituri province in recent months, with at least 68 people killed at five different camps in the area since November, according to NRC.
Last week, Médecins Sans Frontières said it had scaled up its response in the region.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) said conflict in Ituri displaced more than 13,000 people in November and December, with most living on assistance from local communities. Violence in Ituri and neighbouring provinces was disrupting food security, it said.
Kivu Security Tracker (KST), which monitors violence in the region, said “edged blades” were used in Wednesday’s attack and that Codeco was suspected of carrying it out.
According to KST’s data, Codeco factions have been involved in 61 deadly attacks in the past three months. The group emerged in 2017 as a coalition of militias that has since split into several factions.
The militias are considered to be linked to the Lendu agricultural community, which has clashed violently with the Hema pastoralist group in Ituri.
“The communities fighting in the area have been neglected for too long and we will not solve their problems with bandages and medicines,” said Davide Occhipinti, MSF’s project coordinator in the Drodro area of Ituri.
“The Congolese state and its international partners need to take responsibility for reversing the dynamics of this vicious cycle that leads to more and more deaths, injuries and displacement.” (Source: The Guardian)