Bomb attacks in Congo kill at least 12 people including children

Bomb attacks in Congo kill at least 12 people including children

Bomb attacks on two camps for displaced people in eastern Congo have killed at least 12 people, including children, according to the UN.

The bombs hit the camps in Lac Vert and Mugunga, near the city of Goma, the UN said in a statement, calling the attacks a “flagrant violation of human rights and international humanitarian law and may constitute a war crime”.

A two-year offensive by a rebel group known as M23 has moved closer to the eastern city of Goma in recent months, prompting thousands to seek refuge in the city from surrounding areas.

Aid group Save The Children said it was present at one of the camps when shells struck close to a busy marketplace ahead of their vehicle. It said dozens were injured, mostly women and children, and the death toll was still unclear.

A UN spokesperson, Jean Jonas Yaovi Tossa, said at least 12 people were killed and more than 20 injured in the attacks.

In a statement, Lt Col Ndjike Kaiko, a Congolese army spokesperson, blamed the bombings on M23 which has alleged links to neighbouring Rwanda.

But in a statement posted on X, the M23 rebel group denied any role in the attacks and blamed Congolese forces instead.

Congo’s president, Felix Tshisekedi, who was travelling in Europe, decided to return home Friday after the bombings, according to a statement from his office.

Tshisekedi has long alleged that Rwanda is destabilising Congo by backing the M23 rebels.

It’s a claim Rwanda denies. UN experts, along with the US state department, have also accused Rwanda of backing the rebels.

Earlier this week, French president, Emmanuel Macron, called on Rwanda to halt its support for the M23 group during a joint press conference with Tshisekedi in Paris.

The bombings follow the M23 group’s capture of the strategic mining town of Rubaya this week. The town holds deposits of tantalum, which is extracted from coltan, a key component in the production of smartphones.

The US strongly condemned the bombings. The state department said in a statement that the attack came from positions held by Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) and the M23 rebel group.

The US is “gravely concerned about the recent RDF and M23 expansion” in eastern Congo, it said.

“[We] call on both parties to respect human rights and adhere to applicable obligations under international humanitarian law.”

The decades long conflict in eastern Congo has produced one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with over 100 armed groups fighting in the region, most for land and control of mines with valuable minerals.

Some are fighting to try to protect their communities. Many groups are accused of carrying out mass killings, rapes and other human rights violations.

The violence has displaced about seven million people, many beyond the reach of aid.

With Associated Press and Reuters