An attack by Ugandan rebels in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has left at least 24 people dead, including a United Nations peacekeeper, the UN said Monday.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the overnight attack in troubled North Kivu province, blamed on Ugandan rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
Felix-Prosper Basse, spokesman for the UN mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) said that in addition to the peacekeeper, 12 rebels were killed, along with four Congolese soldiers and seven civilians who were hacked to death with machetes in a hospital in the town of Eringeti.
“I saw four civilians killed by bullets… and seven patients and a nurse cut up by machete at the hospital,” a regional official told AFP at Eringeti, which lies in the north of North Kivu province.
A local non-governmental organisation however gave a higher toll of 30 dead.
MONUSCO’s interim commander General Jean Baillaud confirmed to AFP that a Malawian soldier serving with the force had been killed, and a second was wounded when their unit tried to fight off the attackers.
The rebels “attacked our positions at Eringeti and we repelled them all night,” said a Congolese army spokesman in the region, Lieutenant Mak Hazukay, declining to give any figures.
The mostly Muslim rebels, who have been active in the forested region since being driven out of their homeland in 1995, are accused of a series of killings which have claimed the lives of more than 450 civilians since October 2014.
In December that year, Congolese and UN troops launched a joint operation that helped to restore a degree of calm to the region, but the killings did not stop and spread northwards.
The ADF, which first emerged in Uganda with the aim of toppling President Yoweri Museveni and setting up a hardline Islamist state, is accused of numerous serious violations of human rights.
Its leader Jamil Mukulu was arrested in Tanzania in April and extradited to Uganda in July.
The rebels also engage in a profitable illegal traffic in prized tropical timber.