Fifteen people have been killed in a resurgence of violence in DR Congo’s troubled Kasai region blamed on a suspected militia, a local leader said Tuesday.
“Kamwina Nsapu militiamen arrived in the administrative center of Lombelu (on Monday) and made a surprise attack on an army combat patrol,” Andre Kapiola, Lombelu sector chief in Kasai Central, told AFP.
“We have collected the bodies of 14 militiamen,” Kapiola said, adding that one soldier was also killed.
However several Lombelu residents told AFP that about half of those killed in the attack would have been “ordinary citizens”.
Violence in the vast Kasai region first erupted after a tribal chieftain known as the Kamwina Nsapu, who rebelled against the regime of President Joseph Kabila, was killed in August 2016.
Kapiola said the situation was “under control” but that the population of the village, which is 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the major regional town of Kananga, had fled into the bush.
“Many militiamen are scattered through the diamond mines,” a local mining official told AFP, adding that the miners feared for their safety.
A local military source also blamed the Kamwina Nsapu militia for the attack, saying the group are “trying to reorganize” and “trying to steal weapons”.
Joachim Likaka, administrator of the territory of Demba, said reinforcements had been sent to the area to counter any new attacks.
Kamwina Nsapu militia forces were suspected of killing nine people, as well as burning down a village hospital and some houses, on January 30.
The guerilla movement has been leading a bloody rebellion against moves by Kabila to extend his stay in power.
Violence in the diamond-rich Kasai region involving militias, the army and police has claimed more than 3,000 lives since September 2016, while the United Nations says 1.4 million people have been displaced.