Aid groups have condemned a militia group for killing at least 60 people at a camp for internally displaced people in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Norwegian Refugee Council, which supports a school in the region, says two of the school's students are among those killed.
Authorities say fighters from the CODECO militia group attacked residents of the Plaine Savo camp in Ituri province with guns and machetes.
Media reports say CODECO initially came into contact with Congolese army soldiers near the camp Tuesday night but changed direction and got past them to carry out its assault.
The motive for the militia’s attack is unknown.
Tom Peyre-Costa is the Norwegian Refugee Council regional advisor in West and Central Africa. He says attacks against civilians are on the rise, especially in the camps.
"We have seen a new trend from armed groups in attacking specifically, deliberately displacement camps and this must not become a trend," said Costa. "This is why we have strongly condemned this act."
The NRC said another 68 people have been killed in five camps in the same vicinity since November.
The armed group responsible for Tuesday’s attack says it is fighting for land and resources in the country's east.
The United Nations says the group’s fighters have killed hundreds of civilians and forced thousands to flee from their homes in Ituri.
Peyre-Costa says civilians need to be protected from those who want to harm them.
“We are calling the Congolese government to better protect its civilians in this region. We also need the humanitarian community and the international community to do better in terms of protection and assistance," said Costa.
"We also need everyone to come back to the table of discussion. We need dialogue between these communities. So they need to lay down their weapons. There is no place for violence in a country that is facing the biggest humanitarian crisis in Africa.”
The NRC said the 24,000 people living in the Savo camp are among the 1.7 million people displaced in Ituri province.