Human rights organizations and UN forces in DR Congo say that last week 131 civilians were killed by M23 rebels using “guns and bladed weapons” in Kishishe and Bambo, two villages in the territory of Rutshuru, in North Kivu.
“A preliminary investigation by the BCNUDH and MONUSCO confirmed that the M23 rebels killed at least 131 civilians (102 men, 17 women and 12 children) during acts of reprisals against the civilian population perpetrated on 29 and 30 November,” in the two aforementioned villages, a UN statement said.
The UN Spokesperson and Media Relations Office in the DRC also reported that “at least 22 women and five girls were raped” by members of the rebel group.
“This violence was committed as part of a campaign of murder, rape, kidnapping and looting against these two villages in Rutshuru territory in retaliation for clashes between the M23 and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda ( FDLR-FOCA) and armed groups Mayi-Mayi Mazembe and Nyatura Coalition of Movements for Change,” the local UN office said in the statement.
The M23 denies the massacre and accuses
The M23 denied the massacres of civilians in Kishishe, citing only eight civilians who “were killed by stray bullets”, adding that the other victims were members of the rebel groups who had attacked them.
The rebel movement also accused the government authorities of deliberately “taking killed rebels as civilians to make propaganda”.
A statement shared by the spokesperson for the UN forces in the DRC says 52 survivors of the massacres who fled to the force’s base 20 km from Kishishe have been interviewed.
DRC authorities have labeled the Kishishe killings a war crime and called for further investigation. Demonstrations aimed at condemning the killings of Kishishe were organized in Kinshasa and Goma.
Bintou Keita, the head of the UN forces in the DRC, called for “unrestricted access to areas” now controlled by M23 elements, who “would have buried the bodies of the victims themselves, in what could be a attempt to destroy evidence.”