Brussels 08.12.2022 A United Nation investigation has found that at least 131 civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo died in a November attack by the M23 rebel group, the BBC reports.
The massacre took place in two villages – Kishishe and Bambo – in the Rutsuhuru district of the eastern North Kivu province, the UN report reads.
Investigators said the attack appeared to be a reprisal for an ongoing government offensive on the rebels.
M23 group denied the massacre, blaming “stray bullets” for eight deaths.
But the UN’s Monusco peacekeeping mission in the country said 102 men, 17 women and 12 children were “arbitrarily executed” by the rebel group “as part of reprisals against the civilian population”.
During the same attack at least 22 women and five girls were also raped, the UN report said.
“This violence was carried out as part of a campaign of murders, rapes, kidnappings and looting against two villages in the Rutshuru territory as reprisals for the clashes between the M23” and other armed groups, including the FDLR, the statement said, adding that the true number of killed could be even higher
The M23 fighters then buried the bodies of the victims in “what may be an attempt to destroy evidence”, the report continues.
The DRC government had initially said that over 300 civilians were killed in the attack, which took place between 29-30 November. However its spokesman Patrick Muyaya accepted on Monday that it was difficult to arrive at a firm figure as the region was under M23 occupation.
Congolese authorities have described the killings as war crimes and called for deeper investigation, while protests have been organised in the capital, Kinshasa and Goma, the main city in North Kivu.