The gold-rich northeastern province of Ituri has witnessed interethnic tensions between the Lendu and Hema communities since December 2017 that led to widespread violence and human rights abuses.
Twenty-three members of a militia were killed in fighting between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and militias in Ituri province, the army said on Friday.
After fierce battles with members of the Cooperative For the Development of Congo (CODECO) militia group Thursday, the army regained control of four villages once occupied by militiamen in Bese, 90 kilometres north of Bunia, in the territory of Djugu, army spokesman Lt. Jules Ngongo, told reporters.
“Twenty-three militias were killed, 12 others captured, and seven AK 47 weapons recovered,” he said.
Fighting was part of ongoing "Operation Zaruba ya Ituri” launched to end decades of insecurity in the area, according to Ngongo.
Villages recaptured by the army include Lipri, Nyangaray, and Kabakaba, after the clashes, said Ngongo.
The gold-rich northeastern province of Ituri has witnessed interethnic tensions between the Lendu and Hema communities since December 2017 that led to widespread violence and human rights abuses, which have resulted in deaths and mass displacement of residents.
More than 200 CODECO militia group's men accused of atrocities surrendered to FARDC forces in January as a crackdown on armed groups in the volatile east continued.
FARDC launched an offensive in January against militias operating in Ituri as part of a wider operation launched last October.
The army appealed to other militias to assemble at a transit site to avoid being pursued.