A makeshift bomb exploded in a Catholic Church in Beni, in the province of North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Sunday, injuring two people. The bomb went off around 6 am local time (0400 GMT), about one hour ahead of scheduled Confirmations in the church.
“They were targeting a large crowd because the ceremony would bring together children, their parents and the faithful,” said Laurent Sondirya, the vicar general of the Diocese of Beni. However, he added, “Mass would not be postponed.”
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, although suspicion immediately fell on the so-called “Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) insurgent group, which is accused of killing more than 6,000 people since 2013. Sunday’s bombing marked the first time Catholic church buildings have been directly targeted by militant groups in the region.
Following the attack, the Ministry of Communication tweeted that the DRC government condemned the bombing “with the utmost urgency.” The nation’s armed forces (FARDC) are “more than determined to end activism of armed groups in this part of the country,” the ministry said, adding, “This (tragedy) further motivates the FARDC to intensify the hunt for those terrorists in disarray until the very end.”
Numerous militant groups, including the ADF, have been active in eastern Congo since a series of wars beginning in the late 1990’s. Since the beginning of 2021, more than three hundred people have been killed in ongoing violence; in response to the situation, President Felix Tshisekedi declared a “state of siege” in Northern Kivu and neighbouring Ituri in April.
More than 1.6 million people, out of a total population of 5.7 million, have been displaced, according to the United Nations’ children’s agency UNICEF. The ongoing humanitarian crisis has left some 2.8 million people in need of some form of emergency assistance, according to the UNICEF report published in April.
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