Gilbert Kabanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Minister of Defence has revealed that only about 100 ‘tired’ Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) fighters are still in the forests in Irumu territory of Ituri province.
Kabanda, while speaking during a cabinet meeting on Friday, April 22, said the territory where these remaining ADF rebels were located has an area of about 8,730 square kilometres.
He disclosed that 20 hostages were released by the rebels following pressure by the forces of the DR Congo national army, FARDC, on Tuesday, April 19, in Irumu territory.
“After interrogation, the rescued hostages revealed the ‘tired state’ of this terrorist group and signaled that their real number now is about 100 including 40 women and 20 children among whom are foreigners, two of whom are Somalians,” the Minister of Defence said.
According to him, the remaining ADF rebels were located mostly in the south of Irumu territory where they have increased attacks this month killing at least 40 civilians.
After he assumed office, President Felix Tshisekedi, decided in Oct. 2019 to launch large-scale operations against the ADF in Beni territory. This military pressure has forced the ADF to extend their presence to Ituri province.
The military operations launched in 2019 enabled the FARDC to significantly advance and the operations also freed 10 bastions of the ADF.
But the rebels made a return and took control of several zones in 2020 when the military operations relaxed.
Last week, the FARDC with the assistance of UN Blue Helmets, pounded ADF positions in Mount Oyo while the rebels fled from the area. In Irumu territory, the joint forces of the FARDC and the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) have been carrying out operations against the ADF.
The declaration by the Minister of Defence on Friday was the first time the government of President Tshisekedi has given figures on the number of ADF combatants who are responsible for thousands of deaths in the Beni and Irumu region.
The provinces of Ituri and North Kivu have been under a state of siege for almost one year now. This exceptional measure which was intended to restore peace and security in these two provinces is being criticized because it is not producing the envisaged results as violence and insecurity have continued to escalate.
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