Coordinated overnight attacks on civilians by Ugandan rebels in an eastern border region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has left at least 24 people dead, including one U.N. peacekeeper, the United Nations said Monday.
A statement from U.N. Special Representative Maman Sidikou condemned "the cowardly, systematic and criminal attacks" in the Beni region by the Islamist rebel group known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
It says rebels struck two targets Sunday, attacking a hospital in Eringeti and separately killing peacekeepers at a nearby base. The statement said rebels also looted and burned houses and shops, and that 12 rebels were among the dead.
Another top U.N. official in the region, Jose Maria Aranaz, said the attacks targeting civilians and medical facilities constitute a war crime. He also vowed that ADF rebels will be held accountable.
The DRC has launched repeated military offensives against ADF rebels in mineral-rich North Kivu province, which includes Beni. The area has long been Congo's most violent and volatile, with numerous rebel and militia groups vying for power, including a Rwandan rebel unit known as FDLR.
Last year, U.N. refugee officials said nearly 900,000 had been displaced by fighting in the region.