At least five people have been killed in an ambush by suspected Ugandan rebels in the restive Beni region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), local officials say.
Local official Leon Bahungako said the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacked a civilian vehicle on the road between the towns of Eringeti and Oisha in North Kivu province on Saturday.
Bahungako said that eight others sustained injuries in the assault.
An officer told AFP that the army intervened quickly to rescue the other passengers.
Michel Kalombo, the head of the hospital in the town of Eringeti, said they had “received five bodies riddled with bullets”.
“We are caring for four wounded people and four more are being transferred to Oicha hospital,” said Kalombo.
Last month, government forces launched an offensive in Beni against the ADF, one of a number of armed groups that hold territory in the eastern DR Congo and are fighting for control of the region’s rich mineral resources.
Congolese authorities and the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as MONUSCO, accuse the ADF of killing more than 700 civilians as well as combatants in the Beni region since 2014.
Earlier this month, the United Nations imposed sanctions on Congolese general Muhindo Akili for supporting the massacre of at least 400 civilians by the ADF in Beni in 2014 and 2015.
Dozens of armed groups have been active in the eastern DRC, long after the official end of a 1998-2003 war during which millions of people died, mostly of hunger and disease.
The United Nations has warned that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was at a “breaking point,” saying this year it will seek more than $1.5 billion to respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis in the country.
The escalating violence in the Congo’s center and east this year comes amid a political crisis in the country due to President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to leave office after his term expired in December 2016.