Children killed in DR Congo attack, say UN peacekeepers

A UN mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) armoured personnel carrier patrols in North Kivu

More than 20 people, including women and children, have been killed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, UN peacekeepers say.

Most appeared to have been hacked to death on Friday and Saturday in two villages in North Kivu, including three girls who were raped and then beheaded.

It is not clear who carried out the attacks, but the UN mission said the atrocities would "not go unpunished".

At least 10 armed groups operate in eastern DR Congo.

The attacks took place near the town of Beni, which is about 250km (150 miles) north of Goma.

The youngest victim is thought to have been only a few months old," the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) said.

Three girls appear to have been raped and then beheaded. A child's dismembered body is said to have been found in a tree, in the village of Musuku, the statement said.

Officials and civil society organisations in North Kivu accused the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army Liberation of Uganda (ADF-Nalu) of carrying out the attacks.

The ADF-Nalu is considered to be the only Islamist organisation in the region.

The UN has more than 19,000 troops in DR Congo, with an attack force given the mandate of neutralising armed groups.

Analysts say the killings highlight the challenges faced by UN and Congolese forces in eastern Congo, despite the defeat of the M23 rebels.

The government signed a peace deal last week with the rebel movement, which took up arms in April 2012, accusing the authorities of marginalising the ethnic Tutsi minority and failing to honour previous peace accords.

Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda after carrying out a genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Understanding DR Congo

Image caption Eastern DR Congo is awash with a variety of different rebel groups. This is a snapshot of their locations in late 2012. Some have come from neighbouring countries, while others have formed as self-defence groups. Many are taking advantage of the lack of a strong state to seize control of the area's mineral riches.
Image caption The Democratic Republic of Congo covers 2,344,858 square km of land in the centre of Africa, making it the 12th largest country in the world.
Image caption With an estimated population of 75.5 million, DR Congo is the fourth most populous country in Africa. Some 35% of the population live in cities and the capital Kinshasa is by far the largest, with more than 8 million inhabitants. DR Congo has around 200 ethnic identities with the majority of people belonging to the Kongo, Luba and Mongo groups.
Image caption DR Congo has abundant mineral wealth. It has more than 70% of the world's coltan, used to make vital components of mobile phones, 30% of the planet's diamond reserves and vast deposits of cobalt, copper and bauxite. This wealth however has attracted looters and fuelled the country's civil war.

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