Islamic State Claims Responsibility for 2 Sunday Suicide Bombings in Congo

A faction of the Islamic State based in Africa said Tuesday that it was responsible for two bombings in eastern Congo, adding to concerns that extremism has infiltrated a region with a long history of rebel conflict.

A Ugandan man detonated explosives in a suicide bombing on Sunday in the eastern town of Beni, a city occupied by both U.N. peacekeepers and the Congolese army in recent years. The IS affiliate claimed it as its first suicide bombing, the Associated Press reported.

But authorities said the man was a member of the Allied Democratic Forces, a rebel group. ADF has pledged its allegiance to the IS group, but no such information confirming that the organizations were working together on the bombings has come to light.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Congolese Army
Malawian peacekeepers of The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) stand guard outside the Emmanuel Butsili Catholic church in Beni, on June 27, 2021, after a makeshift bomb exploded, injuring two just an hour before a children's Confirmation ceremony was due to be held. SEBASTIEN KITSA MUSAYI/AFP/Getty Images

While no civilians were killed in Sunday's suicide bombing, it came on the same day that another explosion rocked a Catholic church in the area, authorities said.

The Islamic State's Central Africa Province claimed responsibility for both explosions. It said that the suicide bomber was targeting Christians at a bar in Beni, according to the SITE Intelligence Group that monitors communications from extremist groups.

The IS group, in a separate statement, also said it had detonated an explosive device inside the Butsili Catholic Parish. Authorities have said two people were wounded.

Eastern Congo has been mired in conflict for more than a quarter-century particularly near its border with Rwanda. Armed groups there have vied for control of the region's mineral resources.

The ADF, which traces its origins to nearby Uganda, has mounted an escalating number of attacks in and around Beni in the last several years even as the community was struck by an Ebola epidemic. The rebel attacks have brought gunfire to the center of town on multiple occasions, prompting anger from community members about the U.N. and military's inability to stop the violence.

Authorities in Beni have urged residents to remain calm, and closed schools, markets and churches for 48 hours after the attacks Sunday.

The news of a suicide bomber terrified many Beni residents, who feared it was a sign extremists have made deeper inroads putting the community at risk.

"Here in Beni we have never seen such things," Mumbere Mafuta said after Sunday's attacks. "Today it is a bar, church and market. We don't know if tomorrow it will be a school. May God help us."

Congo bombing
Residents observe blood at the scene where a suicide bomber on Sunday night detonated his explosives at a busy intersection, in Beni, Congo Monday, June 28, 2021. The blast occurred the same day another explosion rocked a Catholic church, authorities said, and while neither bomb killed any civilians the government closed major gathering spaces for two days and restricted public meetings as a precaution against further explosions. Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/AP Photo