By JEAN-YVES KAMALE
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Rebels in eastern Congo attacked a village near a mine in Ituri province, killing at least 52 people, government officials said.
Fighters with the group known as CODECO attacked the town of Kablangete on Sunday, said Jean-Pierre Bikilisende, the mayor of Mongwalu, which is 7 kilometers (4 miles) away.
In addition to those killed, 100 civilians were missing, Bikilisende said.
Congo’s government condemned the killings as a “barbaric and cowardly act of CODECO terrorists on innocent populations,” Congo’s Ministry of Communications said in a statement. The government said it is determined to restore peace in the region.
At least 38 civilians, including women and children, were killed at the Blakete-Plitu mining site, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York, “and more civilians were displaced and reported missing when the attackers set fire to the nearby Malika village, where they also reportedly raped six women.”
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo evacuated severely injured civilians on Monday to medical facilities in Bunia in Ituri Province, Dujarric said.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Congolese authorities to investigate the incidents, bring those responsible to justice, and ensure the peacekeeping mission’s immediate access to the area “to facilitate efforts to protect civilians,” Dujarric said.
The U.N. chief urged all armed groups in Congo to stop attacking civilians, participate in the political process and lay down their arms, he said.
Jean Ladis Maboso, an administrator in the affected area, called for justice.
“We condemn this killing of civilians. The militiamen executed civilians in the absence of security elements,” he said. “It is a criminal act that cannot go unnoticed.”
In February, CODECO fighters attacked the Djugu area and killed at least 60 people.
Eastern Congo has been destabilized for years by attacks by several different rebel groups, including CODECO, that are vying for control of the mineral-rich area. The ongoing violence has prompted thousands of rural residents to flee their homes for safer areas.
The latest attack comes a week after discussions were held in Kenya between the Congolese government and rebel movements to try to establish peace and stability in the area.
Associated Press writers Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report
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