At least twelve killed in bomb attacks on displacement camps in eastern DR Congo | Conflict news

The Congolese government and the US blame the Rwandan army and the M23 rebel group for attacking camps where thousands are seeking refuge.

At least 12 people, including children, have been killed in twin bomb explosions that hit two displaced persons camps in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to government officials, the United Nations and an aid group.

Friday’s explosions targeted the camps in Lac Vert and Mugunga, near the city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, the UN said in a statement.

The attacks, which injured at least 20 people, were a “blatant violation of human rights and international humanitarian law and may constitute a war crime,” the report said.

A resident of one of the camps told Al Jazeera that many of the victims were sleeping in their tents when the area came under attack.

“We started running when the bombs were fired at the camp,” the resident said.

The Congolese army and the United States accused the army in neighboring Rwanda and the rebel group M23 of being behind the attacks.

Lt. Col. Guillaume Njike Kaiko, a spokesman for the DRC military in the region, said the attacks were in retaliation for previous DRC attacks on Rwandan army positions that destroyed weapons and ammunition.

In a post on social media, government spokesman Patrick Muyaya also blamed the M23, which has taken over parts of North Kivu in the past two years.

The DRC, the UN and Western countries have said Rwanda is backing the group in a bid to gain control of mines and mineral resources. Rwanda has denied the allegations.

Al Jazeera’s Fintan Monaghan reported that the grenades were fired from an area controlled by M23.

The group denied any role in the attacks and instead blamed the DRC’s armed forces, in a statement on X.

Increasing fighting in eastern DRC has forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee neighboring towns towards Goma, located between Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border and largely cut off from the country’s interior.

International charity Save The Children said it was at one of the camps when shells struck near a busy market place. The report said dozens were injured, mostly women and children, and the final death toll remained unclear.

“A tent doesn’t provide much protection against shelling,” said Greg Ramm, the aid group’s country director in the DRC.

“The protection of civilians, especially children and families living in displaced persons camps, must be a priority,” he said, calling on “all parties to the conflict to put an end to the use of explosive weapons in close proximity to populated areas.” areas”.

President Felix Tshisekedi, who was traveling in Europe, decided to return home on Friday after the bombings, a statement from his office said.

Tshisekedi has long claimed that Rwanda is destabilizing the DRC by supporting the M23 rebels.

The bombings follow the group’s capture of the strategic mining town of Rubaya this week. The city has tantalum reserves, which are extracted from coltan, an important component in the production of smartphones.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller condemned the attack, saying it was “critical that all states respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The DRC branch of the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Médecins Sans Frontières) said its teams had to stop distributing essential items and suspend medical consultations on Friday due to rising insecurity.

In a post on

French President Emmanuel Macron said Rwanda should end its support for M23, during a joint press conference with Tshisekedi in Paris this week.

About six million people have been killed since violence broke out in 1996. Some seven million people have also been displaced, many beyond the reach of aid.