At least 35 civilians being held hostage by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels have been freed by soldiers of the DR Congo national army, FARDC, in Irumu territory of Ituri.
The hostages were freed on Monday, Jan. 10, during operations by the soldiers and taken to Bunia, chief town of Ituri where they were presented to the people on Wednesday, Jan. 12.
Lt. Jules Ngongo, military spokesperson, told the press the soldiers recovered 10 AK-47 rifles from the ADF and Mai-Mai militia.
“We freed 35 civilians held hostage by ADF rebels, and at least 25 ADF combatants were killed, with ten AK-47 rifles recovered during the course of the week by our men who are at the front against terrorists to the south of Irumu territory,” Lt. Ngongo said. “we also destroyed several locally-made bombs.”
Civil society organisations have praised the action by the national army and called for continued fierce defense from the army.
“We salute the courage of our soldiers at the front. However, we would not stop asking the higher authorities to increase the military presence as well as the necessary logistical means in these zones where the ADF and Mai-Mai attack us daily,” Gili Gotabo, president of the Irumu civil society.
“We live from farming but how do we get to our farms when the rebels are all over. There is no means to put a soldier behind every citizen. The state must take its responsibilities at hand.”
The provinces of Ituri and North Kivu are still under a state of siege decreed on May 6, 2021 by President Felix Tshisekedi but the ADF rebels continue to operate with impunity in the provinces.
The armies of Uganda and the DR Congo have since Nov. 30, 2021 been carrying out joint military operations against the ADF rebels in the two provinces and several voices have been raised in Ituri calling for the enlargement of the joint military operations in Irumu and Mambasa territories against the ADF.
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