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Islamic State group-allied militants kill dozens in eastern Congo

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GOMA, Congo (AP) — Militants allied with the Islamic State group in eastern Congo have killed at least 41 people in several villages in North Kivu province, the national government said Monday, as residents openly wondered why security forces weren’t protecting them.

The statement said Friday’s attacks were carried out by Allied Democratic Forces militants in the villages of Masala, Mahihi and Keme.

Local civil society members asserted that the true toll was higher, with as many as 80 killed.

Richard Kirimba, a civil society official in the area that was attacked, said the militants appeared to be expanding their operations and that local mines were drawing them in. “There’s no state authority in this area, and in many villages there are no police, no soldiers, no national intelligence agency,” he told The Associated Press.

“The population is worried because the enemy is roaming around the neighborhood,” said Kambale Vunyatsi Kiongozi, who represents some civil society groups.

Residents have long called on the Congolese army to protect the local population. The government statement said Congo’s government has launched an operation to pursue the militants responsible and has killed a number of them and freed hostages in the process, without providing figures.

Eastern Congo has struggled with armed violence for decades as more than 120 groups fight for power, land and valuable mineral resources, while others try to defend their communities. Some armed groups have been accused of mass killings.

The violence has displaced nearly 7 million people, many beyond the reach of aid.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, which helped in the fight against rebels for more than two decades before being asked by the Congolese government to leave over its failure to end the conflict, will complete its withdrawal by the end of 2024. The three-phased withdrawal of the 15,000-force has begun in South Kivu province.

The government also told an East African regional force, deployed last year to help end the fighting, to leave the country for similar reasons.

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Associated Press writer Christina Malkia in Kinshasa contributed.

By MOSES SAWASAWA
Associated Press

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