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Bomb attacks on displacement camps in eastern DR Congo result in the deaths of at least 12 individuals

Government officials, the United Nations, and an aid group report that twin bomb blasts struck two displacement camps in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, resulting in the deaths of at least 12 individuals, including children.

The attacks, which occurred in Lac Vert and Mugunga near Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, left at least 20 people injured. Described as a “flagrant violation of human rights and international humanitarian law” by the UN, the bombings may constitute a war crime. Witnesses recounted that many victims were sleeping in their tents when the explosions occurred.

The Congolese military and the United States accused the military in neighboring Rwanda and the M23 rebel group of orchestrating the attacks. Rwanda dismissed these accusations as “ridiculous,” asserting that its armed forces would not target displaced individuals.

Instead, the Rwandan government blamed militias backed by the Congolese military. Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Njike Kaiko, spokesperson for the DRC’s army in the region, stated that the bombings were in retaliation for previous DRC strikes on Rwandan army positions. Meanwhile, government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya attributed the attacks to the M23, which has gained control over parts of North Kivu in recent years.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), along with the United Nations and Western nations, has accused Rwanda of supporting the group in a bid to gain control over mines and mineral resources. Rwanda has refuted these allegations.

The group implicated in the attacks denied any involvement and instead blamed DRC forces, as stated in a release on X. The escalating violence in eastern DRC has compelled hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee neighboring towns towards Goma, which sits between Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border, isolated from the country’s interior.

International charity Save The Children reported being present at one of the camps when shells struck near a bustling marketplace. Numerous casualties were reported, predominantly women and children, with the final death toll still uncertain.

Greg Ramm, the aid group’s country director in the DRC, emphasized the vulnerability of civilians, particularly children and families residing in displacement camps, urging all parties involved in the conflict to cease the use of explosive weapons near populated areas.

President Felix Tshisekedi, who was on a European trip, decided to return home on Friday following the bombings, according to a statement from his office. Tshisekedi has consistently alleged that Rwanda is destabilizing the DRC by supporting the M23 rebels.

The bombings come on the heels of the group’s capture of the strategic mining town of Rubaya earlier in the week. This town boasts deposits of tantalum, an essential element extracted from coltan and used in smartphone production.

US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller condemned the attack, emphasizing the importance of respecting each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) branch of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported suspending the distribution of essential items and medical consultations on Friday due to heightened insecurity. In a statement on X, the organization decried the frequent use of heavy artillery near sites for internally displaced people around Goma.

French President Emmanuel Macron, in a joint press conference with Tshisekedi in Paris this week, called on Rwanda to cease its support for the M23 rebel group.

Since violence erupted in 1996, approximately six million people have lost their lives, and seven million have been displaced, with many beyond the reach of aid.

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