BUNIA, DR Congo, May 10, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – The DR Congo army said Sunday it had killed 23 militiamen and retaken one of their few remaining fiefdoms in the northeastern Ituri region in a Friday skirmish.
“Following these clashes the army neutralised 23 militiamen from the Codeco armed group and recovered a bastion at Bese” some 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the provincial capital Bunia, Lieutenant Jules Ngongo told AFP.
The Cooperative for the Development of Congo(Codeco) are one of dozens of armed groups spread across the conflict-wracked country.
Its members are mainly drawn from the Lendu ethnic group, who are predominantly farmers, and clash repeatedly with the Hema community of traders and herders in Ituri – a region rich in gold and oil.
Ngongo said 17 militiamen were killed at Bese and the remainder at nearby Kabakaba, to the north of Bunia.
He added that Bese is one of Codeco’s last strongholds after a string of recent defeats saw them pull back to their base there.
Ituri region has seen several outbreaks of conflict since late 2017 with more than 700 civilians killed in what a UN enquiry labelled crimes against humanity last January.
Last week, Ituri native Thomas Lubanga, a former defendant at the International Criminal Court freed after serving six years of a 14-year jail term for war crimes, urged Codeco to cease attacks on civilians.
At what was the ICC’s first trial, he had been found guilty of war crimes including enlisting child soldiers