Congo: At least 35 dead in attack on gold mine

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At least 35 people have been killed by fighters of the self-proclaimed Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (CODECO) in an attack on an improvised gold mine, two days after a state of siege was declared in Ito. .

CODECO members “killed people at the ‘Blanket Camp’ gold mine. 29 bodies were transported to the city of Pluto. “Six charred corpses were buried on the spot,” Pierre Bicilisente, mayor of the Mungualo community in the Djugu district (Ituri, northeast), told AFP.

“Four-month-old baby and a woman” are among the victims of the attack. “This report is temporary, there may be other civilians dead, whose bodies may have been dumped in pits, while several civilians are still missing. The investigation continues “, the mayor continued.

“The ‘Blanket Camp’ is located in a forest, at a great distance from the nearest military post,” which explains why the intervention of the armed forces was “a little late”, Mr. BikiLisende explained.

“There are a lot of injured people, nine in serious condition, who have been admitted to the Mungual General Hospital,” said Seruben Kukundila, a civil society spokesman. He estimated that the death toll from the attack is “at least 50”.

During the attack, CODECO members looted shops, looted gold and set fire to houses, making it impossible for the camp to continue to be inhabited, Koukoundila added.

The province of Ituri has a subsoil rich in gold and oil. The improvised gold mine “Blanket Camp” is located in a forest area 7 km from Mungualo, in an area that is considered a stronghold of CODECO.

Authorities have barred the army from approaching the gold mines of indigenous and diverse populations that have come from various parts of eastern DR Congo. The nearest position of the armed forces is 8 km from the site where the massacre took place.

CODECO is a paramilitary religious sect organization. He claims to be defending the interests of the Lentos, a local tribe, against the rival Emma tribe and the security forces. It is considered one of the deadliest armed groups in the eastern part of the DRC. In addition to civilians and the military, it targets displaced persons and humanitarian workers. The motives for her attacks are often not clear.

Ituri province has been plunged into a new cycle of violence since late 2017, when CODECO appeared there.

An earlier clash between tribal militias had claimed the lives of thousands of people between 1999 and 2003, when a European force, Operation Artemis, was under French command.

The previous major massacre attributed to CODECO was announced in early February: 62 people were killed in a displaced camp.

Ituri and the neighboring province of North Kivu were declared under siege on May 6, 2021, a measure that gave absolute power to the army and police in the war against the armed organizations that have been ravaging eastern Congo for a quarter of a century. The self-government in them was assigned to the military until recently.

One year after the declaration of the siege, the authorities have not been able to end the massacre of civilians.

President Felix Chisekendi has decided to study the effectiveness of the measure, under pressure from elected officials from Ituri and North Kivu, who are boycotting plenary sessions of parliament on the crisis.

source: ΑΠΕ

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