Crowd in DR Congo lynches two people as UN envoy visits

Beni (DR Congo) (AFP) –


A crowd in eastern DR Congo on Saturday lynched two people they suspected of being members of a militia blamed for the killing of more than 100 civilians over the past month, an AFP journalist said.

The army however said the pair were a sergeant and his wife.

The killings came on the same day that the United Nations peacekeeping chief visited eastern DR Congo where anti-UN protests have erupted since the militia attacks.

Munitions were found in the bags of the two people, a man and a woman dressed in civilian clothes, in the town of Beni.

The crowd of several dozen people accused them of being members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a shadowy armed group with links to Ugandan Islamists, the journalist said.

"They didn't have ID and when we checked their bags we found ammunition, military garb and cartridge clips," said Fabrice Muhindo, who works at the car park where the lynchings took place.

- Anti-UN protests -

"They are ADF members who were on their way to an operation against the population. We neutralised them," he told AFP.

The two were actually an army sergeant and his wife, the army said late Saturday.

Sergeant Bahati Sisimbume was heading to his duty station in Ituri province, north of Beni, army spokesman Mak Hazukai told AFP.

The killings came after another soldier was lynched in Oicha, 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of Beni, on Friday by civilians who mistook him for an ADF member.

The visit to Beni of UN Under-Secretary General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix came several days after a mob stormed a UN base in the town in protest over a perceived failure of peacekeepers to stop militia violence.

"Make no mistake about who the enemies are," Lacroix said during his brief stay in the city before leaving for the neighbouring Ituri province.

"The enemies are those who attack and kill the population. It is also they who attack those who help the inhabitants of this region fight against Ebola," he said.

At least seven people have been killed in clashes during the anti-UN protests this week.

The east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been troubled for years by militia violence, but most recent attacks are blamed on the ADF.

DR Congo forces launched operations against the ADF in the restive eastern region at the end of October. In response the ADF has carried out massacres, in an apparent bid to discourage civilians from helping the military.

- Hacked to death -

Another 27 people were hacked to death on Wednesday, bringing the number of people killed in militia violence to 107 since November 5 in and around Beni.

The European Union has also condemned the "cowardly attacks" by armed groups and called for perpetrators to be brought to justice.

"Closer cooperation is needed between the FARDC (Congolese armed forces) and MONUSCO to reinforce protective measures for civilians," the European Union spokesman said in a statement on Friday.

MONUSCO, one of the biggest UN peacekeeping operations in the world, today comprises more than 16,500 military personnel and observers, 1,300 police and at least 4,000 civilians.

But it has struggled to make progress in a vast country beset by armed groups as well as an Ebola epidemic, poverty and poor governance.

Responding to criticism of inaction, MONUSCO says its troops are unable to deploy in combat without the approval of the host country and in coordination with national forces.

The DR Congo presidency earlier this week announced joint military operations with the UN to reestablish security in the Beni area.