KINSHASA, Sept 1 (Reuters) – Around 80 people are feared missing in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after armed rebels ambushed a convoy on Wednesday and set fire to 16 vehicles, a local parliamentarian said.
Jean-Paul Ngahangondi, a member of the Ituri province’s parliament, blamed the assault on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist militant group accused of killing thousands of people in recent years.
The group could not be reached for comment.
Attacks by the ADF and dozens of other armed groups operating in the region have continued unabated despite the government’s declaration of martial law in Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province at the beginning of May.
The installation of army generals as provincial governors was meant to quell a surge in violence that the military largely attributes to the ADF.
But the number of civilians killed in such attacks has further increased since then, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, which maps unrest in eastern Congo.
Commenting on Wednesday’s incident, government spokesman Patrick Muyaya told Reuters that ADF fighters had set fire to 14 cars and two minibuses in Ituri. He did not specify the number of people injured or missing.
Ngahangondi, the local lawmaker, criticised what he said was the army’s slow response to the attack, a frequent complaint of local people.
“The army just waits for the rebels to kill the population and only then pursues them without any positive results,” he said. “We need to see the army launch a good offensive against the ADF instead of playing defence every time.”
Eastern Congo’s borderlands with Uganda and Rwanda have been plagued by violence since regional wars around the turn of the century in which millions of people died, mostly from hunger and disease.
Islamic State has claimed dozens of killings blamed on the ADF, although U.N. experts say they have not found conclusive evidence that IS has control over ADF operations.
Reporting by Djaffar Al Katanty and Hereward Holland Writing by Cooper Inveen Editing by Aaron Ross and Gareth Jones