A devastating series of bombings stirs tensions in Beni

The city of Beni, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, returned to normal hesitantly on June 30. It marked the end of the 48-hour curfew imposed by local authorities three days earlier, following a series of bombings, including a suicide bombing. bombing, shook the city in North Kivu province over the weekend. The attacks marked a grim turning point in a region that has been terrorized by insurgents for more than two decades.

A rebel group consisting of mostly Ugandan fighters, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), is said to be behind the attacks. One person died on Sunday evening in the Mabakanga neighborhood of Beni. According to a Congolese army spokesman who spoke to AFP, a Ugandan suicide bomber blew himself up near a bar.

Une nouvelle explosion a fait un mort (le porteur de la bombe) et deux blessés ce soir à #Beni (Nord-#Kivu), dans le quartier #Mabakanga, non loin de la “Petite Mosquée” #RDC pic.twitter.com /VlKcPN55dq

— Baromètre sécuritaire du Kivu (@KivuSecurity) June 27, 2021 Translation: Another explosion left one dead (the suicide bomber) and two injured tonight in #Beni (North #Kivu), near #Mabakanga, not far from the “Small Mosque” #RDC

Hours earlier, a homemade bomb went off at St. Emmanuel Church in the Butsili neighborhood, marking the first time a Catholic building had been targeted. Two women were injured. The attacks have not yet been claimed.

#INFO Mass en débandade sur le front Militaire, les ADF sont réduits à poser des attendats terroristes à la bombe dans la ville d Beni.Un engin vient d’exposer dans la Chapelle d l’église catholique #Butsili ce matin à 6h faisant 2 blessés légers.#RDC pic.twitter.com/HcbrUUtnIg

— Roy Mima💥 (@roger_miko) June 27, 2021 Photos posted to Twitter on June 27 show the scene near the church after the bombing. ‘This attack is a real disaster’

Josué Musanzalire, ward leader of Butsili, was not present when the bomb went off, but heard the explosion from his house, not far from the church. He immediately went to the scene to inspect the damage.

The explosion happened around 6 a.m. Some believers were already in church for a mass that was to take place. The two women who were hit by debris during the blast were preparing the church for the service. It would be an important day for the parish. Several worshipers would be confirmed.

Everything in the church was damaged. The windows were smashed and the benches and the public address system were destroyed. We thank God because the lives of the victims are not in danger. They were only injured – one in the legs, the other in her mouth. They were taken to hospital but will be discharged in the coming days.

#RDC🇨🇩 :Quelques photos de l’interieur de la paroisse catholique de #Butsili en ville de #Beni , après l’explosion to the matin de ce dimanche 27 June 2021 d’un explosif à l’intérieur de cette paroisse: Entre une et deux personnes blessées selon les témoins.#NORDKIVU pic.twitter.com/E7AIsGbxQx

— Martial Papy Mukeba wa Mukeba (@MartialMukeba) June 27, 2021

This terrorist attack is a real disaster for our area. We haven’t had any attacks since 2014. We are very concerned. This is the first time a church has been targeted in Beni. We wonder if markets and schools could be the next target. We are very scared because of the danger. We are terrified to relive the atrocities of 2014 [Editor’s note: the year that ADF attacks began in Beni, killing more than 200].

Despite this, we have confidence in our military, which has already taken measures to ensure the safety of the residents.

The Allied Democratic Forces are Ugandan rebels, mostly Muslim, who oppose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. They began grouping in 1995 in the east of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is one of the most violent armed groups in the region and has been accused of massacring thousands of civilians in Beni since October 2014.

To anticipate other attacks, authorities have increased the number of checkpoints along the roads leading to Beni and are closely checking IDs. The city’s residents have also been instructed to notify the security forces if they see any suspicious behavior or object.

“You should never go near an object that you cannot identify. […] We often say that if you didn’t put something down yourself, never touch it, because sometimes it can be booby-trapped,” explains Jacob Bedidio, head of operations at the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in the region. . , in conversation with Radio Okapi, the radio for the United Nations stabilization mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Suicide bombing: a new modus operandi?

These attacks took place almost two months after the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, imposed martial law in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu to fight the many armed groups operating in the mineral-rich region. As part of the measure, civilian governors were replaced by military governors and civilian courts were replaced by military courts.

Pierre Boisselet, a coordinator at Kivu Security Tracker, told Deutsche Welle that the use of a suicide bomber and the attack on a church indicated a change in strategy on the part of ADF.

“They are trying to scare the population into achieving a political victory. It seems that they are deliberately trying to end the military operations against them. We have seen in the past that every time military operations were conducted against them, they responded with an increase in attacks on civilians. It would make sense that the announcement of martial law only reinforced their desire to terrorize the local population,” he explained.

Citing a United Nations report published in December 2020, Boisselet said the rebel group had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group — “even if we don’t yet have enough evidence that the Islamic State group is directly supporting them.” The use of suicide bombers is one of the results of this new collaboration.

A state of siege with little result

According to a report by Kivu Security Tracker (KST) in collaboration with Congo Research Group and Human Rights Watch, martial law has done little to improve security in the east of the country.

“Since martial law was declared by President Félix Tshisekedi on April 30, civil security as a whole has in fact deteriorated in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. KST recorded the deaths of at least 223 people there in May, compared to 198 in April,” Pierre Boisselet wrote in a blog post on the organization’s website.

He continued: “The killings in Boga and Tchabi, in Irumu territory, which led to 55 civilian deaths, on the night of May 30-31 (the deadliest day ever recorded by KST), were largely responsible for this uptick. Month after month, the death toll also increased in Beni area (74 civilians killed in May, compared to 47 in April) and in Mambasa area (35 civilians killed in May, compared to 3 in April).”

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