Goma: Rebels killed 26 people with machetes in an attack in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo as the authorities in Kinshasa demanded the recall on Thursday of the top UN human rights official in the country.
The massacre in the town of Beni calls into question claims by the authorities that Ugandan rebels of the ADF-NALU, who have been terrorising the east of Congo for the last two decades, were all but defeated.
It comes as the Congolese government -- which has been fighting the rebels alongside a contingent of UN peacekeepers -- declared the UN's top human rights official Scott Campbell "persona non grata", after a UN report published yesterday denounced rights violations by the police.
The bloody attack happened in the Ngadai area on the northern edge of Beni, a town of half a million people mostly from the Nande ethnic group, which is a major hub for wood destined for Uganda.
The rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda have committed numerous atrocities since they were chased into neighbouring Congo by the Ugandan army in the 1990s.
Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Hamuli, spokesman for the DRC army in strife-torn North Kivu province, said that "26 people were killed with knives and machetes. I confirm that it was a terrorist attack by the ADF."
Eric Katasomia, a journalist with Radio Television Rwanzururu (RTR), told AFP that he saw 24 bodies being taken away from the scene, among them several children and a soldier.
Civil society groups in the North Kivu region, which has been ravaged by conflict for more than 20 years, had warned of mounting violence by the groups. The Congolese army, supported by UN peacekeepers from the MONUSCO stabilisation mission had dealt the rebels a series of severe blows earlier this year.
But the rebels have begun to recover, attacking isolated villages again, according to an NGO in Beni, a day's drive from the regional capital Goma.
Nine people, including children, were killed at Oicha near Beni in an attack blamed on the ADF-NAL on October 10.
A UN source deplored today the "return of atrocities against civilians, which as well as the latest killings was accompanied by the rape of more than 50 women in North Kivu and in neighbouring Orientale Province" in one week.
The source also condemned the "lack of attention" which the UN's military force has given to the problem.