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Militia accused of killing at least 15 in attack on village in DR Congo

Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo — 

Militia gunmen attacked a village in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, killing at least 15 people, local officials and residents said.

Scores of civilians have been killed this year in attacks blamed on the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) armed group, which rival groups accuse of mining gold in the region.

The latest attack was on the village of Galay in Ituri province.

"They just started firing on everybody," Innocent Matukadala, an administrative official for Banyali Kilo district, that includes the village, told AFP.

Matukadala said there were at least 15 people dead, but the toll could rise as many people jumped into the Ituri River to escape the attack and were missing.

One emergency services official who requested anonymity said 16 bodies had been brought to the village square, including seven women.

The Action Against Hunger (ACF) aid group this week suspended its work in parts of the Ituri province because of increased attacks blamed on CODECO and other groups.

The ACF director for DR Congo, Florian Monnerie, said the armed groups had threatened his workers.

A United Nations peacekeeping force for DR Congo that is meant to leave by the end of the year still has hundreds of troops in Ituri seeking to prevent violence.

CODECO has thousands of fighters with the declared aim of protecting the Lendu ethnic group from rivals among the Hema, but it has also fought the DR Congo army.

A conflict between the two communities between 1999 and 2003 left thousands dead.

After more than a decade of relative calm, fighting surged again in 2017. Thousands have died and more than 1.5 million people have fled their homes, according to the U.N.