2 senior army commanders in DR Congo arrested over killings of civilians

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Two senior army commanders in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that instructed soldiers to kill members of a religious sect who were planning to attack a UN peacekeeping base were arrested Monday.

They reportedly led the soldiers into the church where the members had gathered and instructed them to shoot.

The government said in a statement that 43 people were killed in the church and 56 severely injured, but independent sources claim the death toll is currently 100.

The incident prompted the country’s President Felix Tshisekedi to instruct three Cabinet ministers to travel from the capital Kinshasa to Goma to investigate the killings. They included Interior Minister Peter Kazadi and Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba.​​​​​​​

Kazadi confirmed in a statement that police arrested the two commanders. He said they included Colonel Mike Mikombe, who heads the Republican Guard unit in Goma, and Lieutenant-Colonel Donatien Bawili, who heads the Congolese armed forces regiment in Goma.

“Since Monday, when the delegation of ministers and other government officials arrived in Goma, we have been holding hearings to establish who was responsible for the killings. We have no interest in hiding anything. We want the whole truth to be known,” he added.

On Wednesday, security forces intervened to disperse an anti-UN demonstration which was organized by a group in Goma, leading to clashes and the deaths of dozens of people.

A Christian-animist group called “Natural Judaic and Messianic Faith towards the Nations” had urged its followers to attack UN bases and demand the departure of peacekeepers.