A preliminary investigation into November 29-30 massacres in the villages of Kishishe and Bambo found the killings were carried out in retaliation for clashes between M23 and rival armed groups.

M23's recent offensives have uprooted thousands of civilians and sparked a diplomatic spat with neighbouring Rwanda.
M23's recent offensives have uprooted thousands of civilians and sparked a diplomatic spat with neighbouring Rwanda. (AA Archive)

The M23 armed group executed at least 131 villagers in reprisal killings in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo late last month as part of a campaign of murder, rape, kidnapping and looting, the United Nations has said.

"The victims were arbitrarily executed with bullets or bladed weapons," the UN said in a statement on Thursday.

A preliminary investigation by the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) and the Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) into November 29-30 massacres in the villages of Kishishe and Bambo found they were undertaken in retaliation for clashes between M23 and rival armed groups.

Investigators interviewed 52 victims and direct witnesses, and various other sources in Rwindi, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Kishishe, where survivors and witnesses had taken refuge, the UN said.

"MONUSCO condemns in the strongest terms the unspeakable violence against civilians and calls for unrestricted access to the scene and the victims for emergency humanitarian assistance," the statement said.

READ MORE: DRC troops, rebels clash as M23 says ready to 'disengage'

Full investigation

The government has accused M23 of killing as many as 272 people. The militia, which has captured several towns near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda this year, has denied responsibility and asked for a full investigation.

"We gave our version of the facts. We asked that there be investigations together with us in Kishishe but the UN never came," M23 spokesman Lawrence Kanyuka told Reuters.

"The UN is under pressure from the government to come up with a figure, even if it is false," he said.

M23's recent offensives have uprooted thousands of civilians and sparked a diplomatic spat with neighbouring Rwanda, which DRC and UN experts accuse of backing the militia. 

Rwanda denies any involvement.

The rebel group says it is ready to withdraw from occupied territory and will support regional peace-making efforts, despite not being represented in the talks, the third round of which concluded without resolution in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, this week. 

READ MORE: Hundreds flee as DRC's M23 rebels near key city of Goma

Source: Reuters