After receiving information about reports of attacks on civilians by a local armed group, UN peacekeepers made the “gruesome discoveries.”
After a series of attacks that were attributed to a local armed group, peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo found mass graves containing the bodies of 49 civilians.
On Wednesday, deputy United Nations spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York that the graves had been found in two villages in the northeastern Ituri province, approximately 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of the town of Bunia.
He claimed that the dead of seven more males were found in the village of Mbogi, while the bodies of a total of 42 victims, including six children, were buried in a mass grave in the village of Nyamamba.
“Peacekeepers launched a patrol to the area immediately after receiving reports of attacks on civilians by the CODECO militias over the weekend. This is when they made the gruesome discoveries,” he said, referring to the armed group known as the Cooperative for the Development of Congo.
According to Haq, the UN is requesting a probe to determine whether the mass graves and the assaults were connected.
Additionally, he stated that the MONUSCO UN regional peacekeeping mission was ““supporting the Congolese judicial system to investigate the attacks” and called “for the perpetrators to be brought to justice”.
Ituri, a restive province bordering Uganda, has seen a spate of violence in recent weeks, after the killing of a teacher belonging to the Lendu community triggered reprisal attacks from CODECO, which claims to represent the ethnic group.
CODECO blamed the teacher’s death on a rival militia called Zaire, which claims to represent the Hema ethnic group.
The Lendu and Hema communities have a longstanding feud, which led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before an intervention by a European peacekeeping force.
Haq on Wednesday warned of a “significant deterioration of the security situation” in Ituri, saying that at least 195 civilians have been killed, 68 wounded and 84 people abducted since December during attacks attributed to the CODECO and Zaire militias.