Protestors storm UN camp in DR Congo after militia massacre

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DR Congo

Map of Democratic Republic of Congo, locating Beni

Protestors stormed a UN peacekeepers' camp near the eastern DR Congo town of Beni on Monday, angered by failures to curb a notorious armed group that killed eight civilians overnight, an AFP reporter said.

Demonstrators invaded one of two camps on the town's outskirts despite gunshots fired by Congolese security forces seeking to disperse the crowd.

Dozens broke into the camp, which had apparently been evacuated, and set fire to a part of it, an AFP reporter saw.

They were among an angry crowd several hundred strong that had headed to the camps after setting fire to Beni town hall, partially damaging it.

The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia has plagued eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for decades, despite the presence of a large UN force and repeated declarations by the government to root it out.

Army spokesman Colonel Mak Hazukai confirmed that the town had been attacked by armed men overnight, telling AFP that "the enemy entered the Boikene quarter and killed eight civilians".

In the town centre, two policemen were seen bleeding heavily from wounds after the morning protest, an AFP reporter saw.

A demonstrator died when police opened fire on Saturday. Two policemen were killed the same day by angry demonstrators, the UN Okapi radio said.

Seventy-seven civilians have been killed in the Beni region since November 5, according to a not-for-profit organisation, the Congo Research Group (CRG).

The army launched an offensive against the ADF on October 30, vowing to "definitively wipe out" armed groups in the lawless east.

The ADF's historical roots lie in Islamist Ugandans opposed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

The group has plagued the North Kivu region bordering Uganda since the Congo Wars in the 1990s, although its membership has since broadened to non-Ugandans and it has not carried out an attack in Uganda for years.

The so-called Islamic State group has claimed some of the attacks ascribed to the ADF this year, but there is no clear evidence of any affiliation between the two groups.

- Embattled mission -

MONUSCO -- the United Nations Organization Stablization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo -- is one of the biggest UN peacekeeping operations in the world.

It was established in 2010, taking over from a UN mission in Congo called MONUC, set up in 1999 at the height of the second Congo War.

The mission today comprises more than 16,500 military personnel and observers, 1,300 police and at least 4,000 civilians.

But it has struggled to make headway in a vast country beset by armed groups as well as entrenched poverty and poor governance.

On Monday, the speaker of the DR Congo parliament, Jeanine Mabunda, said MONUSCO's mission "cannot be limitless".

"There is an unease over the presence, the cost of MONUSCO in the DRC, and the results obtained," Mabanda said in Paris.

She said it was "legitimate for people to ask why this force is still in the DRC."

On Saturday, the mission said the Congolese army had launched its anti-militia offensive unilaterally, and this was why it could not intervene.

"MONUSCO cannot engage in operations in a war zone without being asked and without strict coordination with the national army," it explained in a tweet.

Uncoordinated action could lead to casualties from friendly fire, it added.

- Troubled region -

Beni, in addition to being in the front line of militia violence, is also the epicentre of an Ebola epidemic that has killed around 2,200 people since August 2018.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said fighting in the region could jeopardise an opportunity to end the outbreak.

Also in eastern DR Congo, at least 29 people were killed on Sunday when a small plane crashed after takeoff, smashing into a densely populated area of the city of Goma.