Congo arrests six soldiers accused of killing civilians

MANGINA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo have arrested six soldiers who are accused of the indiscriminate killing of four civilians during militia clashes in the east.

The clashes took place in the rural district of Mangina, near Beni, on Monday, the army said in a statement on Tuesday.

Security had deteriorated there since last month when a member of the provincial assembly encouraged young people to take up arms, forming a small-scale militia to oppose the army, the statement from local army spokesperson Antony Mwalushayi said.

The parliamentarian named in the statement, Alain Siwako, denied this. He told Reuters by phone that the militia fighters were not from Mangina and that the army spokesperson had accused him for personal reasons.

On Monday soldiers on patrol were ambushed by the young militiamen, and opened fired on civilians in the ensuing clashes, the army statement said.

A Reuters reporter counted seven bodies of civilians in the town on Tuesday. One resident said his neighbour was on his way to secure his house before fleeing when he was shot.

“He was the father of two children and he died with the padlock in his hand,” said 56-year-old Kahindo Mbahikya, who survived the attacks.

The six soldiers who were arrested “are accused by the army of excesses and the alleged murder of 4 civilians,” the army statement said.

Eastern Congo is home to dozens of militia groups, some left over from a 1998-2003 civil war.

Tensions have run high throughout the country since President Felix Tshisekedi won re-election in a disputed poll last month.

(Reporting by Yassin Kombi; Additional reporting by Erikas Mwisi Kambale; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Alison Williams)