U.S. Sending Soldiers to Congo to Train Army, Help Find Rebels Who Killed 9 in Attack

The United States pledged to aid the Democratic Republic of Congo in training the Congolese army and police forces as well as helping to find rebels who killed at least nine civilians, including women, in an attack on the eastern city of Beni.

Mike Hammer, U.S. ambassador to Congo, visited the city on Thursday and told the Associated Press the U.S. will help look for the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), who are blamed for the attack.

"We will begin intelligence cooperation between the Congolese army and the U.S.," Hammer said. "There will also be the arrival of more than 1,000 soldiers to hunt down the Ugandan rebels of the ADF."

Officials said the attack on Beni was the third such one in the area this week.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Peacekeeping forces
Officials said on Thursday an attack on Beni left at least nine civilians dead, including women, and it is the third such one on the area this week. In this picture, 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. Sébastien KITSA MUSAYI/AFP via Getty Images

"These ADF terrorists attacked peaceful populations ... killing and kidnapping others," said Beni's police chief, Col. Narcisse Muteba. "These rebels used the kidnapped civilians (as shields) to escape the Congolese army. Investigations are underway to find the perpetrators of this crime."

Some of the victims were killed in their homes while others were taken to the center of the neighborhood before being shot and beaten with machetes or pieces of concrete, the military spokesperson in the region, Lt. Anthony Mwulushayi, said.

Nine bodies are in the morgue, he said, adding that one other body of a woman remains at the scene.

"Alongside the human toll, businesses were looted before being set on fire, and residences were also set on fire," he said.

This attack comes days after two explosions on Sunday hit a Catholic church in Beni's Butsili district and a market in another district, leaving four wounded. The Islamic State group's Central Africa Province claimed responsibility for the two Sunday explosions, which included its first suicide bombing.

Many Beni residents protested the violence and angrily demanded that the police and military provide better protection to the civilian population. Demonstrators carried the body of a slain victim to the town hall, where the army and police dispersed the protests with live ammunition.

"Are we Congolese like the others? In Beni, we are being killed with bombs, sporadic machete attacks ... I would like the government to help us because we are going to die overnight," said Kambale Tsongo, a protester carrying the body of a victim.

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.

Patrols against ADF in Congo
TOPSHOT - Officials said on Thursday an attack on Beni left at least nine civilians dead, including women, and it is the third such one this week. Here, a picture taken on November 13, 2018, shows Tanzanian soldiers from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patrolling against Ugandan Allied Democratic Force (ADF) rebels in Beni. John Wessels/AFP via Getty Images