Sixteen militiamen have been killed in northeastern DR Congo, the military said on Tuesday, an area where ethnic violence has left at least 160 dead and forced hundreds of thousands to flee in the past two weeks.
Militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, a military spokesperson said, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one.
“At the moment, operations are concentrated around the Kpadruma locality where there is violent fighting,” Lieutenant Jules Tshikudi, a provincial army spokesman, told AFP.
“The soldiers of the armed forces of the DRC have chased attackers from several localities which they were occupying and sowing insecurity,” he said, adding that four AK47 rifles were recovered.
The name of the group targeted was not revealed but the area has seen repeated outbreaks of violence between different ethnic groups.
A flare up in violence in the Djugu region in DRC’s volatile Ituri Province between 10 and 12 June led to at least 160 deaths, according to local authorities.
Earlier death tolls put the figure at somewhere between 50 and around 70.
The UN refugee agency has voiced deep concern over the developments, which it said had seen “multiple attacks” involving the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups since early June.
The violence has forced more than 300,000 people to flee their homes, the agency has said, with “large-scale displacement” reported in three of Ituri’s five administrative territories, with people fleeing unrest in Djugu territory especially.
The gold-rich region has experienced extreme violence before, with tens of thousands of deaths due to clashes between the Hema and Lendu between 1999 and 2003.
Ituri is not the only part of DRC wracked by unrest.
The country counts an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people.
Ituri and North Kivu province, just to the south, are also trying to roll back a major epidemic of Ebola that has claimed more than 1,400 lives since last August. Both provinces sit on DR Congo’s eastern border with Uganda.