After a string of attacks that are believed to have been carried out by a local armed group, peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo uncovered mass graves containing the bodies of 49 civilians. The graves were discovered in two villages located in the northeastern part of the Ituri province, around 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of the town of Bunia, according to Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesperson for the United Nations, who talked with the media on Wednesday in New York.
A total of 42 victims, including six children, were found in a mass grave in the village of Nyamamba, and he stated that the bodies of seven other men were recovered in another community called Mbogi.
“After receiving reports of attacks on civilians carried out by CODECO militias over the weekend, peacekeepers immediately dispatched a patrol to the region in question and began investigating the situation.” “At this point, they made the horrible findings,” he stated, referring to the armed group that is commonly referred to as the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CDF).
Haq stated that the United Nations was pressing for an investigation to determine whether or not there was a connection between the attacks and the mass graves. He also said that the United Nations Regional Peacekeeping Operation, or MONUSCO, was “helping the Congolese judicial system investigate the attacks” and had asked for “the perpetrators to be brought to justice.”
After the assassination of a teacher from the Lendu community, which triggered reprisal attacks from CODECO, which claims to represent the ethnic group, Ituri, a volatile province bordering Uganda, has seen a spate of violence in recent weeks. The death of the teacher was attributed by CODECO to a competing militia group known as Zaire, which asserts that it represents the Hema ethnic community. Before a European peacekeeping team got involved in 1999, a long-running fight between the Lendu and Hema communities killed tens of thousands of people between 1999 and 2003.
Since December, at least 195 civilians have been killed, 68 have been wounded, and 84 have been kidnapped as a result of attacks that have been attributed to CODECO and Zaire militias. On Wednesday, Haq issued a warning that there has been a “significant deterioration of the security situation” in Ituri.