At least eighteen people, including children, were killed in fighting between the Congolese army and a militia near a gold mine in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, we learned Tuesday from local sources.
Several children “are still missing,” added the priest of Salamabila, Father Célestin Kijana. In a panic, hundreds of students fled at the start of the fighting on Saturday, when class ended.
« We have just buried with the members of the local Red Cross 18 bodies » including « eight children », said the man of the church in the province of Maniema. According to this priest, most of the bodies bore “bullet marks”.
« We also recorded 10 seriously injured who were evacuated to Bukavu », the capital of the neighboring province of South Kivu, he added.
Six militiamen were killed and two captured, according to Captain Dieudonné Kasereka, an army spokesman in South Kivu, who said nothing about the civilian casualties. A Congolese soldier was killed and two were injured, he added.
« Salamabila and its surroundings under army control »
Fighting took place on Saturday between soldiers from the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and the Malaika militia, which claims to defend the interests of residents living near the gold deposits of Salamabila.
This armed group is asking the Congolese authorities to respect specifications for the sharing of the riches of the Salamabila gold mine (respect for the rights of artisanal miners and construction of roads).
To be heard, the Malaika kidnapped for several weeks in 2017 and 2019 employees including French and South Africans from the Canadian company Banro, which operated the site.
In September, Banro announced the suspension of its activities in Salamabila deploring « the harassment and the raids on the supply lines of Banro, the attacks on the mining site itself and the threats against the employees ».
« Today Salamabila and its surroundings are under the control of the Congolese army, » said the officer.