Around 300 people died in an attack on villagers i9n eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last week by the M23 rebel group.
Congo has been locked in a months-long conflict with the notorious armed group M23 with the latest violence coming just five days after a ceasefire was agreed between the rebels and Congolese forces.
The army originally accused the M23 insurgents of killing at least 50 civilians in Kishishe village in eastern North Kivu province last week, before the government put the number of dead at more than 100.
But on Monday, December 5, Congolese government minister Julien Paluku and government spokesman Patrick Muyaya laid out updated figures for the deadly attack during a press briefing, citing data collated by civil society and communities in the region.
“We are looking at around 300 deaths” of “people known to be regular inhabitants of Kishishe,” Paluku said, saying the victims had no connection with militia groups.
“Every community has been able to record the people who died from units in Kishishe and its environs,” said Paluku, who was governor of North Kivu province from 2007 to 2019.
“One community alone has more than 105 deaths,” he added.
The rebel group has denied it was responsible and called the allegations “baseless” although it said eight civilians were killed by “stray bullets” during clashes in the village on November 29.
All the fatalities were civilians and at least 17 believed to be children, Muyaya told reporters.
The UN’s peacekeeping mission in DR Congo has led calls for an investigation after the government said 50 villagers had been massacred by a notorious armed group in the country’s troubled east.
The March 23 movement, or M23, is a predominantly Congolese Tutsi rebel group that was dormant for years.
It took up arms again in November last year and seized the town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda in June.
Congo accuses its smaller neighbour Rwanda of providing M23 with support, something that UN experts and US officials have confirmed in recent months.
The Rwandan government rejects the allegations and has accused Kinshasa of collusion with the FDLR – a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the genocide of the Tutsi community in 1994 in Rwanda.