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East Congo militants kill at least 22 in string of attacks - officials

Suspected militants killed at least 22 people in a string of attacks across the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern Ituri and North Kivu provinces overnight Saturday, officials and activists said on Sunday.

The incidents were the latest in a stream of continuous violence that has plagued eastern Congo for years, despite increasing interventions from the country's army and U.N. peacekeepers.

At least 12 people were killed Saturday in simultaneous raids across several villages in Ituri province. Local officials and civil society leaders blamed the CODECO group, one of several militias that have destabilized the densely forested region.

"In spite of numerous appeals for peaceful cohabitation...the CODECO militia continues to massacre the vulnerable," Colonel Jacques Disanoa, who administers the Mahagi territory where some of the villages are located, told Reuters by telephone.

Militants killed another 10 people and abducted three more later that night in the village of Nguli, at the base of North Kivu's Mount Kyavirimu, according to Colonel Alain Kiwewa, the administrator of the surrounding Lubero territory.

Kiwewa blamed that attack on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group based in eastern Congo that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State and taken positions in the nearby Virunga National Park.

"It is a really sad situation," Kiwea said by phone. "They killed them using machete and other weapons."

Congo's government declared a state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri in 2021, in an attempt to stem rampant militia violence in the country's vast mineral-rich east. But the killings and rebel activity have not shown any sign of abating.

"Even when we are under siege, the enemy still surprises us every day," said Delphine Malekani, an activist in North Kivu.

(Reporting by Erikas Mwisi Kambale; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Peter Graff)

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