By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Suspected Islamist militants have killed scores of people in their latest attacks against Christians in the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), aid workers say.
More than 20 people died in an October 30 violence in the DRC’s North Kivu province, aid group Barnabas Fund told Worthy News.
“At least 15 of the 21 dead were women,” said the group citing local witnesses.
“Members of the jihadi militia, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), are suspected of carrying out the assault [in the province’s] Lisasa village,” added Barnabas Fund, which supports Christians in the area.
It said, “a church was desecrated, a health center looted and homes set on fire. Several people were also abducted.” The attack came days after “jihadists killed at least 18 people in Baeti village in North Kivu province,” Barnabas Fund noted.
A church and several homes were reportedly burned during the raid, which the Islamic State (IS) group claimed was carried out by its fighters. The ADF, which is believed to have close ties to IS, has been active in the mainly-Christian north-east of the DRC for more than two decades, several aid groups say.
Violence is surging against Christians in especially the northeastern areas of the nation since October 2019 when the army launched a large-scale offensive against Islamist militants.
The ADF is also suspected of carrying out several atrocities in Ituri province, which neighbors North Kivu, according to Christian aid workers. Those attacks included the reported killings of at least 58 people in attacks on two villages in September.
Earlier this year, violence against Christians also included the murder of the Archdeacon of Eringeti, Ngulongo Year Batsemire, church sources said. He was reportedly killed for refusing to denounce his faith in Christ.
Barnabas Fund said he was walking to his fields with his wife when surrounded by ADF members who demanded he converts to Islam. “When he refused, they killed him.” He was one of 36 Christians murdered by insurgents in the January attack in the North Kivu region, according to church sources.
It was followed by three days of terror in February, when some 30 Christians were killed in attacks in Toko-Toko and Makeke villages, Christians said. Other attacks were also reported in March. Then six Christians, including three women and a 9-year-old child, died in an attack on the mainly Christian village of Kalau near Beni city in North Kivu, Christians said.
Amid the violence, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that thousands of children were at risk in for instance Ituri province. It cited “unrelenting violence” in a conflict that has ravaged the region over decades.
The fighting underscored the growing influence of Islamists in the DRC. The former Belgian colony of over 100 million people, which gained independence in 1960, has been struggling to find a national identity. It had previously other country names, including Zaire.