At least 35 people, including a child, were killed in an attack on a gold mine in Ituri in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, local sources said on Sunday.
Jean-Pierre Bikilisende, a local official from the rural Mungavalu settlement in Jugu, Ituri, said that the Kodeko militia had attacked the artisanal mine.
Biklisende said militias had attacked the Camp Blanquet gold mine and 29 bodies were recovered, while six other charred bodies were found buried at the site.
He said a four-month-old baby was also among the dead.
“This is a provisional toll,” he said, as there were other people whose bodies were dumped under the mine.
Several other civilians have been reported missing, he said, adding that the “search is on.”
Biklisende said that Camp Blanquet was set up in a forest not far from the nearest military post, so help came too late.
Cherubin Kukundila, a civilian leader from Mungvalu, said at least 50 people were killed in the raids.
Several people were injured, of whom nine are in critical condition. He was undergoing treatment at Mungvalu Hospital, he told AFP.
He said that during their attack, the attackers ransacked shops, miners picked up what they had dug from the mine, and burned houses.
The Camp Blanquet mine is located at a distance of 7 kms from Mungvalu.
CODECO, the name of the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo, is a politico-religious sect that claims to represent the interests of the Lendu ethnic group.
The Lendu and Hema communities have a long-standing conflict that led to the deaths of thousands of people between 1999 and 2003 before the intervention of the European Peace Keeping Force.
Violence resumed in 2017, attributed to the emergence of CODECO.
CODECO, considered one of the deadliest fighters operating in the east of the country, has been blamed for several ethnic massacres in Ituri province.
It has been blamed for attacks on soldiers and civilians, including those fleeing the conflict and aid workers.
Its attacks have caused hundreds of deaths and prompted more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes.
Ituri and neighboring North Kivu province have been under siege since May last year. The army and police have replaced senior administrators to prevent attacks by armed groups.
Despite this, the authorities have been unable to stop the regular massacres of civilians.