Armed militia in Congo raided a village and killed at least 12 people who were displaced in the northeastern Ituri province of the country amid a growingly worsening economy, said a military spokesperson.
Authorities said that on Sunday night, fighters from the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) group raided the Drodro village. They then proceeded to kill six children, four men, and two women, said Jules Ngongo, a spokesperson for Ituri's military government.
Armed Congo Militia
However, some local groups said that the number of victims killed by the armed militia was higher than what was reported by the military spokesperson. CODECO is responsible for attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in Ituri province's Djugu territory since 2017. The group has forced thousands to be displaced in search of safety.
The CODECO group primarily gets its fighters from the Lendu farming community, which has long been in conflict with Hema herders in the region. Ngongo said that the militia group's objective was to attack the population that was displaced in Drodro, Aljazeera reported.
A priest and coordinator for the Catholic charity Caritas in Ituri, Ngabu Lidha Chrysante, said that his colleagues on the ground have seen, with their own eyes, the bodies of 35 people who were killed in the attack. He said that the CODECO fighters also targeted the local church while raiding the village.
Kivu Security Tracker maps violence in Congo and previously said that it had already confirmed 29 deaths in the attack. The spokesperson for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, Mathias Gilman, said that there have been at least 16,000 people who fled the attacks that were forced to take shelter at a nearby site protected by peacekeepers.
A spokesperson for CODECO, Patrick Basa, denied that the group was responsible for killing the civilians. However, they confirmed that their members encountered Hema militia in the area but claimed that civilians had already fled the area when they started their fighting, Reuters reported.
Congo's Food Crisis
The situation comes as the country struggles to address the worsening economy that has led to a food security crisis. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that new findings indicated the food crisis in Congo showed little signs of abating. Officials said the situation could worsen in the following months without scaled-up assistance.
The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis showed that roughly 27 million people, which accounts for a quarter of Congo's population, were facing a crisis or emergency acute food insecurity conditions. They said that the issue was fueled by poor harvests, violence-driven displacement, disease, and collapsing infrastructure.
It was revealed that the number of people in Congo who fell in the IPC's crisis phase of acute food insecurity, or IPC 3, was higher than any other country that it had analyzed. The new report showed that even areas in and around the capital Kinshasa were badly affected by the food crisis. Forecasts show that the situation could worsen in some regions, especially in vulnerable groups, such as young children and pregnant women or nursing mothers, Relief Web reported.