A bomb killed at least 10 people and wounded 39 others after ripping through a church in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, an attack blamed on suspected Islamists.
Details of the attack are hazy, but Congolese military spokesman Antony Mualushayi said the “terrorist act” happened in a Pentecostal church in North Kivu province’s Kasindi, a town on the border with Uganda.
A Kenyan was arrested following the bomb blast, he added, although the perpetrator of the attack in the turbulent region remains unclear.
The explosion killed at least 10 people and wounded 39, Mualushayi said, revising up an initial death toll of five. Both tolls were provisional, he said.
Joel Kitausa, a local civil-society figure, also put the death toll at 10, and said 58 people had been wounded.
But the spokesman for Uganda’s military operation in the DRC, Bilal Katamba, said on Sunday evening that 16 people had been killed in the blast, and 20 wounded.
“The attackers used an IED to carry out the attack and we suspect ADF is behind the attack,” he added.
AFP was unable to independently confirm the death toll.
The DRC’s communications ministry said on social media that the attack was apparently carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) — which the Islamic State group claims as its affiliate in central Africa.
The ADF is one of the deadliest of the more than 120 armed groups in eastern DRC, many of them the legacy of regional wars that flared at the turn of the century.
It has been accused of slaughtering thousands of Congolese civilians and carrying out bomb attacks in Uganda. ADF operatives have also planted bombs in towns in North Kivu in the past.
– ‘More visible and more lethal’ –
In 2021, the United States labelled the ADF a “foreign terrorist organisation” with links to the Islamic State group. The militia is active mainly in North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province.
The same year, a joint Congolese-Ugandan military operation began targeting the ADF inside the DRC.
But the attacks have continued.
A report by independent experts for the UN Security Council, released in December, said the ADF had “continued its geographic expansion” despite the Congolese-Ugandan military operation, killing at least 370 civilians since April 2022.
It also warned that the ADF was changing tactics: opting for “more visible and more lethal” bomb attacks in urban areas, said the report.
In April last year, for example, a woman detonated a suicide vest in a bar in North Kivu’s capital Goma, according to the independent UN experts. Six people died in the attack and 16 more were wounded.
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi placed North Kivu and Ituri under a so-called state of siege in 2021 in a bid to stem the violence, with military officials replacing civilian administrators.
The measure has also largely failed to stop attacks against civilians.
The DRC’s presidency condemned Sunday’s attack, as did the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the impoverished nation of over 90 million people.