The United Nations refugee agency has reported an “alarming increase” in attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) – a historically Ugandan group present in eastern DRC since 1995.
The report showed that over 200 persons have been killed and 40,000 more displaced in ongoing attacks attributed to armed groups affiliated to ISIL (ISIS) since January.
“The ADF has killed nearly 200 people, injured dozens of others, and displaced an estimated 40,000 people in DRC’s Beni Territory in North Kivu province as well as nearby villages in Ituri province,” UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said.
“In less than three months, the ADF has allegedly raided 25 villages, set fire to dozens of houses and kidnapped over 70 people,” he told reporters in Geneva.
The ADF has a reputation of being the bloodiest of the 122 militias that plague the eastern DRC. It killed an estimated 465 people last year.
According to the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), an NGO that monitors violence in the DRC’s troubled east, the group has killed more than 1,200 civilians in the Beni area alone since 2017.
Experts say that the latest surge in attacks appeared to be due to reprisals by the ADF after the army of DRC launched an attack against the group on October 2019 which invariably forced them to break up into smaller, highly mobile units.
The UN agency expressed concern for those displaced, whom it said were at increased risk due to food and medicine, particularly in the context of the current coronavirus and Ebola outbreaks in the region.
Those forcibly displaced this past month had fled to the towns of Oicha, Beni and Butembo.
“The majority are women and children, as men stay behind to protect properties, exposing themselves to the risk of further attacks,” Baloch said.
Even before the recent mass displacement, some 100,000 internally displaced people were already in need of shelter and protection in Beni, according to UNHCR figures