The toll of a machete attack at a camp for displaced people in eastern DR Congo this week has increased to 62 people killed, including 17 children, an official said Friday at a mass funeral.
Grief-stricken relatives cried as men shovelled orange earth onto 53 coffins of different colours aligned in the ground at a mass burial following the killings on Tuesday.
The bodies of a further nine people had been handed back to their families so they could be laid to rest in their villages following the attack overnight Tuesday.
A respected monitor, the US-based Kivu Security Tracker (KST), has said the suspected attackers were from a notorious armed group called CODECO, blamed for a string of ethnic massacres in the area.
“They killed 62 people including 17 children and wounded 46 other displaced people,” said Emmanuel Ndalo, the head of the Plaine Savo camp for the displaced in Ituri province.
“Some victims were butchered with machetes, their feet and hands cut off… It was really horrible,” he said.
He called for UN peacekeepers to be sent in to protect the camp, which he said was home to some 40,000 people.
The area is the theatre of a deadly, long-running feud between the Lendu and Hema communities.
Fighting between the two groups flared between 1999 and 2003, claiming tens of thousands of lives before being quelled by a European Union peacekeeping force, Artemis.
Violence then resumed in 2017, blamed on the emergence of the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO), which claims to defend the Lendu ethnic group.
Since then, CODECO attacks have caused hundreds of deaths and prompted more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes, while half of the region’s population faces food insecurity, according to the Danish Refugee Council.