Suspected militants killed about 20 people in attacks on two villages in eastern Congo over the weekend, the army and a local rights group said on Sunday.

Militants believed to be from the United Democratic Forces (ADF) killed residents and burned houses in the villages of Kandoi and Bandiboli in Ituri province late Friday and Saturday night, said Christophe Munyanderu, coordinator of the local group Convention on Respect for Human Rights (CRDH ).

Jules Ngongo, a Congolese army spokesman in Ituri, confirmed about 20 deaths and said Congolese forces were pursuing the attackers.

“It’s too hard for me – when I saw the bodies, their throats had been cut,” said Alice Kyango, whose parents were among those killed in their homes on Saturday.

The ADF is a Ugandan militia that moved into eastern Congo in the 1990s. The group was responsible for 1,050 violent deaths in 2021, compared to 599 in 2020, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, which charts violence in the area.

Security in Ituri and neighboring North Kivu province has deteriorated since the government placed them under military rule last year, UN experts said in June.

In April 2021, the government declared a state of siege in the provinces in response to escalating militia attacks, including repeated UDF massacres.

Uganda has also sent at least 1,700 troops to help its neighbor fight the ADF after it blamed the group for a series of bombings in Kampala last year.

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