Suspected Islamist militants kill 15 in east Congo village

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BENI, May 30 (Reuters) - Suspected Islamist militants killed 15 civilians in an attack on a village in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, a human rights group and local official said on Monday.

Fighters believed to be members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) stormed the village of Bulongo in North Kivu province after dark on Sunday, pillaging homes and murdering inhabitants that crossed their path, municipality mayor Jean Paul Katembo told Reuters.

Bulango is around 40 km east of the city of Beni in the Ruenzori district.

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The attackers killed 15 people and set fire to six vehicles, Ricardo Rupande, president of the Ruenzori Sector Civil Society group, said.

The ADF is a Ugandan militia that has been active in east Congo since the 1990s and killed scores of civilians, many in middle-of-the-night attacks carried out with machetes and hatchets. It pledged alliance to the Islamic State in 2019.

"It was around 9 p.m. when I heard loud blasts. My first reflex was to flee because I immediately thought it was the ADF. They killed 15 of our brothers and sisters," said Bulango resident Kambele Meza Milan.

Congo's army spokesman did not immediately respond to calls.

Militia violence in Congo's mineral-rich east pushed the government to appoint military officers to run North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province in May last year.

Uganda sent in more than 1,000 troops in December to wage joint operations against the ADF. read more

But attacks have continued unabated as ADF fighters have targeted civilians in retaliation for the military campaigns.

More than 60 people were killed over five days of attacks on villages in March and more than 40 during similar assaults in April. read more

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Reporting by Erikas Mwisi; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Alison Williams

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