At least 16 people have been shot dead for weeks after being taken hostage in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with bloodletting being blamed on armed Islamists, military and local sources said Tuesday.
According to local civilian sources, the victims, including two women, were held by members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which the US says have ties to the Islamic State group.
The hostages were killed along a main road near Idohu, in the troubled province of Ituri, according to local official Dieudonne Malangai.
Ituri military governor, Johnny Luboya Nkashama, spoke in Komanda, about 40 kilometers from the massacre, and condemned the killings.
“We will strengthen our presence in the region,” he said during a meeting with local residents.
“Helicopters are already on the scene and other military personnel are on their way with trucks and ammunition to ensure security in the region and organize safe convoys along this road,” the governor added.
He promised to come back within a month to re-evaluate the situation in the area, where thousands have fled their homes to avoid the violence.
“The goal is to completely clean up the area and allow the population to return to the villages,” Nkashama told a skeptical crowd at a public rally.
“It was hoped that martial law would restore security, but people are still dying every day,” he added.
The government of the sprawling Central African country placed Ituri and the neighboring province of North Kivu under martial law in May in an attempt to ramp up the fight against armed groups.
The ADF is the deadliest of dozens of militias operating in the region.
It started as an armed Ugandan Muslim group and has been active in the mineral-rich eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo for 30 years.
The Catholic Church of the DRC says the ADF has killed about 6,000 civilians since 2013, while a respected US-based observer, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), blames it for more than 1,200 deaths in the Beni alone. area since 2017.