A rebel group has killed at least 11 people in northeastern Congo, a local official said Monday.
Jonas Pandanzi, president of a local civil society organization in the Central African nation’s North Kivu province, said the victims were shot and killed early Sunday by members of M23, a rebel group the United Nations says has links to neighboring Rwanda. Rwanda denies the accusation.
M23 rose to prominence 10 years ago when its fighters seized Goma, eastern Congo’s largest city, located on the border with Rwanda. It derives its name from a March 23, 2009, peace deal that the group accuses Congo’s government of failing to implement.
The Sunday morning attack took place following armed confrontations between M23 and local self-defense groups near the village of Bwito, where the bodies of the 11 civilians were found, Pandanzi said. The rebel group reportedly retreated into the area, killed residents, and stole valuables.
According to civil society leader Pandanzi, troops from a regional intergovernmental organization who were deployed in the area did not intervene. The death toll is provisional, he said, as some local residents were missing in the wake of the attack.
Conflict has simmered in eastern Congo for decades as more than 120 armed groups fight for control of valuable mineral resources and some to protect their communities. Mass killings by rebel groups are frequent, and the violence has triggered an exodus of refugees.