According to a report by local official and a civil society activist on Monday, at least 14 people were killed on Sunday in the Ituri province of eastern Congo after militia attacked worshippers praying in a church.
According to Reuter report, Djugu territory administrator Ruphin Mapela and civil society activist Dieudonne Lossa said the attack was carried out by the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO), one of the many militias operating in the conflict-ridden east.
“The victims were praying to the Lord, but unfortunately militiamen identified as CODECO opened fire on them,” Lossa said.
The attack repeatedly lasted for more than two hours with both reporting that 9 civilians, 4 assailants, and a soldier were killed. They further disclosed that seven other people died in the same area a week earlier.
Mapela said militants attacked the Mesa, Cepac, and Aumopro churches in the Bahema-Nord chiefdom, which are located on the shore of Lake Albert.
Ituri province has emerged as one of the most violent hotspots of the Democratic Republic of Congo where dozens of lives are being claimed in the attacks.
Ituri army spokesperson Jules Ngongo Tshikudi has called on the “population to remain calm as the armed forces pursue these criminals in order to bring them to justice.”
CODECO militia, which comprises thousands of fighters claims to be defending the interests of Lendu farmers, who have long been in conflict with Hema herders. The conflict between Lendu and Hema communities flared up again in 2017, after a decade of calm.
The United Nations humanitarian organization said the CODECO raids have worsened a longstanding humanitarian crisis in Ituri province, where 3 million people are in severe need of assistance.