Islamic State affiliate expanding reach in DR Congo, UN experts say

By Sonia Rolley

KINSHASA (Reuters) – A Ugandan armed group that killed dozens of school children last week is expanding its operations in Democratic Republic of Congo with funding from Islamic State, a United Nations group of experts said on Tuesday.

The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) started as an uprising in Uganda but has been based in neighbouring Congo since the late 1990s. It pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2019.

The ADF killed at least 37 people in an attack on a school in western Uganda near the Congolese border on Friday night.

Despite a joint operation against it by the Congolese and Ugandan armies, the ADF has sent scouts and fighters to plan attacks hundreds of kilometres beyond its normal area of operations in eastern Congo, the experts said in a report to the U.N. Security Council.

“In North Kivu, Operation Shuja had an impact on the sanctioned armed group. Nonetheless, ADF pursued expansion beyond North Kivu and Ituri provinces and continued to conduct deadly attacks on civilians,” the report said.

The ADF has increased its activity in South Kivu province in recent months and sought to recruit and conduct attacks in capital Kinshasa and in Haut-Uele province, it said.

“It should be noted that (their) objective is to carry out acts of terror that make big publicity,” Congo’s government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya told a press briefing on Monday.

He said the army was making progress against the ADF through its joint operations with Uganda, particularly in the group’s strongholds where it has destroyed training centres and other sites.

The group of experts also reported new details about the ADF’s sources of funding, saying they had documented financial support from Islamic State to the ADF and links between the ADF and Islamic State cells in South Africa.

“Da’esh (has) provided financial support to ADF, since at least 2019, through a complex financial scheme… emanating from Somalia and going through South Africa, Kenya and Uganda,” the report said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The U.N. experts also obtained evidence of organizational links between the ADF and the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) militia in Mozambique, which has also declared allegiance to Islamic State, they said.

(Reporting by Sonia Rolley; Additional reporting by Paul Lorgerie; Editing by Nellie Peyton and Angus MacSwan)