Militia attack in DR Congo kills six Chinese nationals, Congo soldiers

BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo/BEIJING (Reuters) -Militia fighters have attacked a Chinese-linked mining site in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, killing six Chinese nationals and at least two Congolese soldiers, local officials said on Thursday.

China condemned the attack, which took place on Wednesday in Djugu territory in the gold-rich Ituri province.

Djugu administrator Ruphin Mapela said it was carried out by the CODECO (Cooperative for the Development of the Congo) militia. It is mainly made up of fighters from the Lendu ethnic group, which they claim to defend.

Six Chinese nationals and two Congolese soldiers guarding the site were killed, Mapela said.

The Red Cross representative for Djugu, Dhekana Ernest, said the CODECO fighters had come across the Chinese digging for gold.

“They entered their camp, killed six Chinese nationals and three soldiers. The victims were killed with bullets,” he said, adding that the corpses were taken to the city of Bunia.

A spokesperson for the army in the region confirmed the toll and added that a Congolese national and six militia fighters were killed.

In Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry said an attack on on a Chinese-funded private enterprise led to the death and disappearance of several Chinese citizens.

China is in close communication with DRC authorities in the search for those missing, ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a press briefing.

“We urge the DRC to pursue and punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law as soon as possible,” Mao said, while calling for measures to beef up security and protection for Chinese citizens and enterprises there.

“Those already in high-risk areas should be evacuated as soon as possible,” she said.

The name of the mine and the company were not immediately available.

In eastern Congo mining concessions, many private Chinese operators partner with local licence holders, sometimes providing funding and machinery to operate. They also bring in Chinese workers.

Wednesday’s was the latest deadly militia attack in a region where the violence is linked to long-running competition for influence and rich mineral resources.

CODECO is one of a myriad of militias fighting over land and resources in east Congo. It has been accused in the past by the United Nations of attacks against other communities that could constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

(Reporting by Mei Mei Chu in Beijing, Erikas Mwisi in Beni and Yassin Kombi in Butembo; Writing by Bernard Orr and Sofia Christensen; Editing by Bate Felix and Angus MacSwan)

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