Overnight attacks by suspected Ugandan rebels killed at least 34 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The attacks were carried out in three villages near Beni, a city more than 185 miles north of the provincial capital in the northeastern region of the country, the Associated Press reported. The attacks left five people in critical condition.
The attacks were coordinated by the Allied Democratic Forces and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda, according to a coalition of civil-society groups cited by AP. It reported more than 250 people have been killed in attacks around the same area in the past two months.
A town chief, Jean-Baptiste Kamabu, said the assailants attacked victims with axes and machetes, Al Jazeera reported. And two people were abducted, Agence France-Presse said. Celestin Ngeleka, a representative of a military group tasked with fighting armed groups in the region, told AFP that soldiers are still searching the area and could “find other cadavers.”
The United Nations has authorized a peacekeeping force to battle the rebel groups in the area, as AFP reported. Attacks have been ongoing in the eastern region of the country, near the border of Uganda, for the past 20 years. They have been especially common in Beni, a key commercial center and stronghold of a community whose leaders rallied behind a militia supported by Uganda during the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1998 to 2003, as AFP said.
The latest attacks came after comments by the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country that suggested the organization could be leaving under certain conditions.
“We could reduce our presence,” Martin Kobler, who heads the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country known as Monusco, told AFP in an online chat session. A delegation from the U.N. headquarters in New York “has come to see how Monusco could reduce its forces, because the security situation in many places is getting better,” Kobler said.