Sixteen people, including 12 civilians, were killed in a rebel attack on Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive east, witnesses told AFP on Sunday.
A doctor at the local hospital reported seeing 16 dead bodies, “including 12 civilians and four soldiers or rebels.” Eight people were injured, of whom five civilians, in the attack late Saturday.
The Beni region is under siege from the Allied Defence Forces (ADF), an Islamist rebel group blamed for hundreds of civilian deaths over the past four years.
Foreign humanitarian workers have been stationed in Beni, in the north Kivu province near the border with Uganda, since early August to deal with a new Ebola outbreak in the region.
“The surprise attack happened in the streets of Beni city,” the doctor told AFP. Four of the dead were killed while travelling in a taxi.
According to several witness accounts, the attack started around 1630-1700 GMT.
Heavy and light calibre gunfire was heard for several hours until after midnight local time. It was not known whether the army counter-attacked.
The rebels targeted areas near the centre of the trading settlement of several hundred thousand inhabitants.
The ADF is a militia initially created by Muslim rebels to oppose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, but also operates in the DRC.
The group has been in the east of the country since 1995 and are accused by the UN and Congolese authorities of committing a series of civilian massacres since 2014.
However, in 2015 the New York University Study Group on Congo said it was not just the ADF behind the killings and that other armed elements, including members of the Congolese army, were also to blame.
North Kivu, one of the most populated areas of the DRC, is home to a number of armed groups that kill or abduct civilians.