Armed fighters attacked a town in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo late at night, massacring at least 34 people, including women and children who were at a local church, officials said on Saturday.
South Kivu Minister of the Interior Jean Julien Miruho said that the violence in Mutarule late on Friday also left at least 27 wounded.
Miruho said the identity of the assailants was unknown, though he believed the violence stemmed from livestock disputes in the area, about 70km from Bukavu.
“We cannot say exactly who these attackers were, but we will put together a commission of inquiry that will go to the site Sunday,” Miruho told reporters. “It is clear that this attack was linked to the theft of cattle.”
Survivors blamed a rebel group from Burundi known as the FNL for the attack, though the claim could not immediately be verified.
Eastern Congo is home to a myriad of armed groups and militias, many of which are vying for control of the region’s vast mineral resources.
Many of the rebel groups sowing unrest there originate in other countries in the region, including Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda.
Congo’s military successfully sidelined one major rebel group — M23 — in eastern Congo last year with the help of a UN force with a stronger mandate.
Congo’s military is also working with a Rwandan Hutu militia group known as the FDLR to finally disarm after two decades of violence.
In Congo’s North Kivu Province, General Delphin Kahimbi said the government was giving the FDLR rebels a 30-day notice to voluntarily disarm.
An estimated 1,400 FDLR fighters remain in eastern Congo, according to government estimates.