The Democratic Republic of Congo says “children have been killed” in an attack blamed on rebels in the restive east of the country.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has said 272 civilians were killed in a massacre in the eastern town of Kishishe last week, raising the death toll from a previous estimate of 50.
The new death toll was announced Monday by Industry Minister Julien Paluku, who spoke at a press conference with government spokesman Patrick Muyaya.
“I cannot give details about the attack. An investigation has been opened by the Attorney General and we are awaiting the results of the investigators,” said Muyaya.
“What we do know is that children have been murdered in an Adventist church and a hospital,” he said.
The government had blamed the M23 rebel group for the massacre, which denied responsibility and called allegations that it targeted civilians “baseless”.
The United Nations said last week it had received reports of a large number of civilian casualties during clashes between the M23 and local militias in Kishishe on November 29, but did not provide figures.
The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC denounced reports of the atrocities last week, saying they could amount to “crimes under international humanitarian law” if confirmed.
“We condemn these heinous acts and call on all appropriate authorities to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice without delay,” the mission wrote on Twitter.
The DRC army and the M23 – a mostly Congolese Tutsi rebel group – have been embroiled in fighting in the restive east of the country for months, and the alleged attack is likely to break a fragile ceasefire reached in the region last month. , destroy.
The UN has previously warned that the fighting is leading to the displacement of tens of thousands of people amid deteriorating humanitarian conditions.
“The newly displaced join the approximately 200,000 displaced [internally displaced people] forced to flee their homes since late March, when the latest wave of violence began,” the UN said in a statement last month.
“Meanwhile, as the security situation in the eastern DRC worsens, access for humanitarian aid is increasingly restricted.”
The M23 rebels are named after a peace agreement they signed with the Congolese government on March 23, 2009, when they fought as part of a group calling itself the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP).
Many CNDP fighters were integrated into the Congolese army, officially known by its French initials FARDC.
The rebels largely belong to the Tutsi ethnic minority group and have close ties with the Tutsis in neighboring Rwanda. The Rwandan government denies allegations that it supports the rebels.