BENI, DRC —
The discovery of four mass graves in Beni territory in eastern Congo has raised questions about the fate of nearly 1,000 people abducted by Ugandan Islamist ADF rebels.
Congolese army spokesman Major Victor Masandi said the four graves found during the weekend after the army captured an ADF camp contained the bodies of many people the ADF had executed, including hostages and dependents unable to flee.
He reminded reporters that similar mass graves had been found after other ADF camps were captured.
Many ADF hostages, or kidnap victims, are unaccounted for. A civil society group in Beni told VOA it documented 947 people kidnapped by the ADF between 2010 and 2013. The group said 350 were reunited with their families between March and May 2014, but the fate of the others is unknown.
Sadiki Mutamo, a Muslim farmer, was kidnapped by the ADF and held for a month in 2013.
He said the ADF took him because he told them a lie. A group of them asked if he had any goats, he said no, but his wife who was afraid, said yes, they did have some goats, so they took him away because, as he puts it, the Muslims are against lying.
When he arrived at the ADF camp, Mutamo said he was stripped and put in a hole in the ground, where there were 75 people. He said they spent the nights in that hole and during the day, when they were hungry, they were allowed out to work and were fed and were then sent back to the hole.
A lot of people in that hole died, he said, while others were freed.
"We knew they had died because when the ADF came to take them away that was the last time we saw them."
Mutamo was lucky - he was freed by a guard who noticed he was a Muslim, because he has a mark on his forehead where he touches the ground when praying.
According to Mutamo, the guard said to him: "How come you’re a Muslim? Tomorrow you’re going to die. For the sake of our religion I’ll let you escape but don’t let the other ADF see you."
Kahamba Lusenge Georgine was kidnapped by the ADF and lived with them for more than a year. The ADF killed her parents and her husband. She spent six days in a hole without eating anything except earth, but was spared because one of the ADF fighters wanted her as his wife.
She cried as she remembered how the ADF killed people.
"When they were killing people, they called us," she said, "and we were allowed to lift our veils a few centimeters so that we could see the killing, and after they killed each person we were allowed to applaud."
At other times, she explained, they were not allowed to look up at ADF combatants.
The ADF took their time killing people, she said. They would torture them first, then read to them from their bible, or Koran, and then they would finish them off.
VOA spoke to another ADF kidnap victim, who was abducted when she was five. She had been an ADF combatant and asked for her identity to be withheld. She described how the ADF would execute people slowly, cutting off noses, and gouging out eyes, before finishing off their victims.
She said the ADF commander killed by the DRC army during the weekend, Kasadha Kalume, trained combatants in how to execute people.
DRC army spokesman Major Victor Masandi said the army has called for an investigation of the graves and is more determined than ever to wipe out the ADF.
A spokesman for the Muslim community in Beni told VOA his community has no links with the ADF and he believes the movement has no more to do with Islam than the Lord's Resistance Army has to do with Christianity.