ISIS kills dozens of Christians in DRC; churches are closing after recent attacks

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for killing dozens of people in a series of violent attacks spanning several days in several villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with at least 80 Christians reportedly among the dead, military and local sources say.

The series of attacks saw one of its deadliest days on June 7, when suspected Islamic State-affiliated militants. Allied Democratic Forces launched coordinated attacks against several villages in the Beni territory of the Christian-majority North Kivu province.

On Friday, the Islamic State demanded responsibility for the attack that killed more than 40 people in the village of Mayikengo in Lubero territory earlier in the week. Citing figures from local authorities, Agence France-Presse reports that nearly 150 people have been killed since the beginning of June by the Allied Democratic Forces.

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Open Doors, a watchdog organization monitoring the persecution of Christians in more than 60 countries, responded to the attacks in a statement shared with The Christian Post, saying that of those killed, at least 80 were Christians. While ADF attacks in DRC are not new, Open Doors reports that the recent violence is “comparatively deadlier” and particularly more “aggressive targeting Christians” than in previous years.

“Christians are being forced to flee, and some churches in the affected villages have closed as a result of the latest attacks. These relentless attacks come at a time when Christian farmers are preparing for harvest,” said Open Doors US CEO Ryan Brown.

“The effect is that many families are without means to feed their families, and the unprepared displacement has put pressure on the livelihood of Christian families now moving to unknown destinations.”

More than a dozen armed groups and 100 criminal gangs and militias operate in eastern DRC, according to the US State Department. ADF, which is also referred to as Islamic State's Central African Province and sometimes called ISIS-DRC, was designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization in 2021. The group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2017 after operating in the DRC for years .

“ISIS-DRC has historically relied on local resources and the international connections of former leader Jamil Mukulu to raise funds but has received funding from ISIS-linked financial networks since 2017,” State Department. factsheet notes “Approximately one-third of the members of ISIS-DRC, including its top leaders, are of Ugandan origin.”

The World Watch List of Open Doors ranks DRC as the 41st most dangerous country for Christians, with the eastern regions facing acute threats from Islamic militants, organized crime and local armed factions. The group called for increased international support and a concerted effort to address the crisis affecting Christian communities.

“The speed with which Christian communities continue to be attacked in eastern DRC by the ADF is appalling. These attacks continue unabated, displacing thousands of people from their homes, farmland and livelihoods,” said Jo Newhouse, Open Doors spokesperson for Sub- Saharan Africa “We call on the international community to do everything in its power to ensure that the DRC government faithfully and transparently protects all affected communities and that the displaced receive the support they need in these circumstances.”

Last week, on the night of June 7, 41 people were killed and several wounded, underscoring a poor tally of more than 80 deaths in just four days, said Lt. Col. Mak Hazukay, a spokesman for the Congolese army. Reuters.

The villages of Masala, Mapasana and Mahini bore the brunt of the onslaught, with armed men wielding guns and machetes in a brutal rampage. Fabien Kakule, a local official, told Reuters that residents were attacked indiscriminately, and a local health center was set on fire.

In addition, 11 bodies were discovered in the villages of Kabweli, Mamulese and Mununze. Later, 13 more bodies were found in the village of Makobu, as reported by local leaders and civil society members engaged in the search and recovery of bodies.

In addition to the killings, nine people suffered injuries during the attacks.

The ADF, originally a rebel group from Uganda, has significantly expanded its base of operations in eastern Congo.

According to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data, ADF has become the deadliest threat to civilians in the region, with more than 1,000 reported deaths last year alone. Their strategic positions also facilitated increased cross-border attacks into Uganda.

EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Nabila Massrali told Reuters that terrorist groups were “taking advantage of the chaos to increase their grip on an already very unstable region”, stressing the need for a political solution to combat the rising tide of extremism and violence.

Former North Kivu governor Julien Paluku used social media to express concern about the national government's response, or lack thereof, to the growing violence.

“People have the impression, rightly or wrongly, of being abandoned to their sad fate,” he was quoted as saying.


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