Congo – Officials and AFP reported that a bomb blast killed at least six people in the eastern city of Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday. The bomb went off in the city center, according to Narcisse Muteba, the colonel commanding the city under the state of emergency in the country’s east. For their own protection, he advised residents to return home. An AFP correspondent witnessed the remains of three victims at the disaster site, the In Box restaurant, despite Muteba’s refusal to offer a toll for the incident.
The bomb scene was littered with the remains of the restaurant’s tables, chairs, bottles, and glasses. Two eyewitnesses told AFP that there were more than thirty people celebrating Christmas when the device went off. Local radio host Nicolas Ekila told AFP, “I was sitting there.” A motorcycle had been parked nearby. The motorcycle suddenly took off, followed by an audible boom.”
The injured were taken to a local medical center, which was promptly cordoned off by a police vehicle. Two people were injured when a homemade device detonated at a Catholic church in Beni on June 27, the same day that a man was killed when the bomb he was carrying detonated. Another explosive exploded near a gas station the day before, causing no harm.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the most lethal of the militia, were blamed by the authorities for the attacks. Beni, in Ituri province, on the DRC’s eastern border with Uganda, has seen regular army-ADF skirmishes. Since May, North Kivu and neighboring Ituri have been under a “state of siege,” an emergency measure in which the military has effectively taken control but has so far failed to stop armed militia attacks.
The DRC and Uganda launched a coordinated operation against the ADF in the country’s east on November 30 in an attempt to stop the bloodshed. Uganda has also accused the organization of being responsible for a series of attacks on its soil. Historically, the ADF was a Ugandan rebel coalition led by Muslims who resisted Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. However, in 1995, it established itself in eastern DRC, becoming the deadliest of a slew of illegal militias in the volatile area.
Thousands of civilians have been killed in the DRC during the last decade, as well as bombs in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. The Islamic State’s Central Africa Province, or ISCAP, refers to the ADF as a regional affiliate of the group. The ADF was added to the US government’s list of “terrorist groups” linked to IS jihadists on March 11 of this year.