Members of the Lendu group are responsible for the mass killings of Hema during inter-ethnic clashes earlier this month in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri province, according to a preliminary investigation by the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office.
The investigators report at least 117 people were killed during a series of attacks on multiple villages in Ituri province between June 10 and 13. They confirm at least 94 people were killed in Djugu territory and 23 in Mahagi territory.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Marta Hurtado says the victims include women and children, and the deaths were of a particularly vicious, gruesome nature.
"Some of the victims were beheaded. Homes and warehouses were burned down after being looted," she said. "Most of the victims belonged to the Hema community, and the rest to the Alur group. The attackers are reported to be unidentified individuals from the Lendu community."
Hurtado says the ferocity and scorched-earth nature of the attacks suggests the assailants intended to prevent survivors from being able to return to their villages.
The Hema and Lendu groups have been fighting with each other over land and other resources sporadically for the past two decades. Clashes between the two groups hit renewed heights this month, causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.
The U.N. refugee agency reports more than 300,000 people are internally displaced, and around 7,500 others have fled to neighboring Uganda.
Hurtado says the motives of the perpetrators of these latest attacks are unclear, though information gathered by investigators indicates additional political and economic motives.
The U.N. human rights office is calling on the Congolese authorities to conduct a prompt, impartial, independent investigation into the killings and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
At the same time, the agency is urging the government to make sure the Lendu community is not subject to collective punishment for the actions of specific individuals or groups.
Source: Voice of America