More than 200 militiamen have surrendered since Jan. 3 as a crackdown on armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile east continues, the army said Monday.
The army began an offensive last Friday against a notorious militia called the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) operating in the gold-rich northeastern province of Ituri.
The campaign is part of a wider operation launched in October.
“More than 200 militiamen from CODECO have surrendered since Jan. 3 to government forces, but the army remains determined to continue its operations to neutralize this militia accused of atrocities,” General Chiviri Hamuli, the army’s provincial commander in Ituri, told a news briefing.
Hamuli appealed to other elements of the CODECO militia to assemble at a transit site to avoid being pursued by the army.
He said several areas formerly occupied by the militia had been recaptured by government forces.
"This militia is killing civilians, attacking our army,” he said.
On Sunday, 16 militiamen were killed and three captured, he added.
He noted that the army will not sit idle while militiamen are slaughtering innocent civilians.
“We have been hitting them…When we neutralize them, they remind us of the rights that they violate, a quite complicated situation. But to avoid fire, they should calmly assemble at the transit site in [the town of] Kpandroma," said Hamuli.
The crackdown targeted two villages -- Ngongo and in Djugu and Lipri in Irumu territory -- both located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the provincial capital Bunia, according to the army.
Armed violence erupted in the territory of Djugu in December 2017, leading to several deaths and driving thousands of civilians out of their homes.
Local authorities accuse the militia group of being responsible for the deaths of 160 civilians last June and the fleeing of over 300,000 people in Djugu.
Militia groups roam in Ituri, one of three eastern provinces of the DR Congo.
The major army operation is ongoing in North Kivu province, where hundreds have been killed by the Ugandan rebel group the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.