Desolation in east DR Congo village after ADF attack
Only a few survivors are left in the village of Mukondi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where ADF militants hacked dozens of people to death during an attack this week.
On Wednesday, fighters from the militia, which is aligned to the Islamic State group, killed over 40 people in Mukondi and the nearby village of Mausa, according to local officials.
Some villagers described how they had welcomed the fighters before the killing started.
Kavugho Tsongo, a 40-year-old farmer from Mukondi, said that villagers initially thought the armed men -- who were wearing military fatigues -- were simply paying a visit.
The fighters killed her sister-in-law and nephew. "They were chopped by machetes in my presence," Tsongo said.
Dozens of armed groups plague troubled eastern Congo, many of them a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s.
But the ADF is among the deadliest, accused of slaughtering thousands of civilians.
Last week, the United States offered a reward of up to $5 million for information concerning ADF leader Seka Musa Baluku.
Mukondi bore the brunt of the militia's latest violence this week. AFP visited the relatively large settlement, in North Kivu province's Beni territory, on Friday.
Village chief Deogratias Kasereka said that there had been no shooting during the attack. "They used bladed weapons, machetes, axes".
Thirty-one people were killed in the village, according to Kasereka, which now lies almost empty as the inhabitants have fled.
AFP was unable to independently confirm the number of people killed in the attack.
- Torched houses -
Kambale Kivyeku, 58, said he had left his field and arrived in Mukondi to find houses on fire.
He asked men who were nearby what was going on. "Without knowing it, I had just spoken to the rebels," Kivyeku said.
The fighters told him to drop to the ground and they pointed a gun at him before beating him with a tree branch.
"I don't know whether I escaped by magic," Kivyeku said.
Moise Kambale Kirimbi, who is also a farmer, said that the militants killed a family member during the attack and also torched his home.
"I don't know where to go," the 38-year-old said, adding that there were few soldiers to protect the area.
In their absence, local militias known as Mai-Mai provide security.
"I'm appealing to the government to track these rebels down," Kirimbi said, referring to the ADF. "They must be prevented from returning".
Efforts to defeat the ADF, and other militias, have so far fallen flat.
North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province have been under a so-called "state of siege" since 2021, with security officials running the local governments in a bid to stamp out the violence.
The DRC and Uganda also launched a joint offensive that year to drive the ADF out of their Congolese strongholds, but the measures have so far failed to end the group's attacks.
Remaining residents interviewed by AFP said that the militants had torched 16 buildings in Mukondi, including a clinic.
At the nearest hospital, 7 kilometres (4 miles) away, most of the wounded survivors have presented with head wounds.
Hospital director Justin Muyisa said he had received 17 wounded patients since the attack, including 11 children, some of whom are in critical condition.
"We have no assistance, we urgently need medicine," he said.