Congolese militia kills 42 police in ambush
beni, congo — A Congolese militia group decapitated 42 policemen after ambushing them in the increasingly violent Kasai region, a local official said Saturday.
Members of the Kamwina Nsapu militia staged the attack between the cities of Tshikapa and Kananga in central Kasai on Friday, according to Kasai Assembly President Francois Kalamba. The militia freed six policemen because they spoke the local Tshiluba language, he said. Kasai Gov. Alex Kande Mupompa said investigations were underway.
Large-scale violence erupted in the Kasai region in August when security forces killed the Kamwina Nsapu leader. More than 400 people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced since then, according to the U.N.
The U.N. in recent days reported the discovery since January of more than two dozen mass graves in three Kasai provinces. And five videos have emerged in recent weeks that appear to show Congolese soldiers firing on militia members.
While the violence is linked to local power struggles, there are also clear ties to Congo’s political crisis, according to Human Rights Watch. Anger has been growing in the country at longdelayed presidential elections, and dozens were killed in December amid protests as President Joseph Kabila stayed on past the end of his mandate. A deal reached between the ruling party and opposition to hold elections by the end of this year, without Kabila, remains fragile as the U.N. urges its implementation.
Militia members have recruited large numbers of children and used crude weapons to attack security forces and some government buildings in Kasai and other provinces, Human Rights Watch said.
The decapitations were announced as the rights group on Saturday called on Congo’s government to cooperate with U.N. efforts to locate experts, including an American and a Swede, who have been missing in the Kasai region for nearly two weeks. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo said its movements have been restricted by security forces in Kananga, the provincial capital of Kasai Central.
Michael Sharp of the United States, Zaida Catalan of Sweden, interpreter Betu Tshintela, driver Isaac Kabuayi and two motorbike drivers vanished March 12 near a remote village south of Kananga. They were looking into recent large-scale violence and alleged human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militia groups.
Their disappearance is the first time U.N. experts have been reported missing in Congo, Human Rights Watch said, and it is the first recorded disappearance of international workers in the Kasai provinces.