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Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo patrol a rebel infiltrated area Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo patrol a rebel infiltrated area  (AFP or licensors)

DR Congo: Scores die in clashes between army and rebel groups

Twelve civilians and 38 rebels have died in four days of fighting in northeast DR Congo, where the armed forces are carrying out a crackdown on militias.

By Linda Bordoni

The latest clashes in the violence-wracked Democratic Republic of Congo erupted between militia groups and the military in Ituri and North Kivu provinces.

Decades of internal conflict have claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions in the Central African nation.

Last week’s attacks took place in Ituri province where, in separate conflicts, the army is battling the Allied Democratic Forces -. a group with links to the so-called Islamic State - and an ethnic-based militia called CODECO.

According to military and local sources, nine civilians in Ituri’s Mambembe area were "massacred" by the ADF last week, and three more were killed in an attack on Saturday. They said thousands of civilians have been displaced and ADF rebels are moving about in the region.

In another part of Ituri, soldiers reportedly killed seven ADF militants and captured one in an offensive. Separately, the army said it had carried out a "helicopter-backed operation" against CODECO in Ituri, in which over 30 rebels were killed and several wounded.

CODECO is the acronym of Cooperative for the Development of the Congo. It is described as a military-religious sect that claims to represent the Lendu ethnic group, which has a historic feud with the Hema community.

Fighting between the two groups flared between 1999 and 2003, claiming tens of thousands of lives before being quelled by a European Union peacekeeping force. But violence resumed in 2017.

Meanwhile, a suicide attack in neighbouring North Kivu province on Saturday killed seven people.

North Kivu is the epicenter of ADF attacks that have claimed some 6,000 deaths since 2013. The group has also been blamed for a string of attacks on Ugandan soil this year.

Last November, the DRC and Uganda launched a joint operation against the ADF, a historically Ugandan rebel coalition that established itself in eastern DRC in 1995. It has since declared affiliation to the Islamic State and become the deadliest of scores of outlawed forces in the troubled region.

Dire humanitarian situation

Currently there are more than 5.2 million internally displaced people in DR Congo and nearly a quarter of the population faces severe food insecurity. About 120 armed groups are active in the eastern part of the nation. Many of their fighters – and abusive government security forces – have been accused of carrying out massacres, kidnappings, sexual violence, recruitment of children, and other attacks on civilians. (Source AFP)

29 December 2021, 16:01