At least 40 police officers tasked with curbing the activities of a militia group have been beheaded in the Congolese central province of Kasai.
Militia fighters decapitated about 40 police officers Friday, after an ambush in central Democratic Republic of Congo. Authorities are calling the attack the deadliest one on security forces since an insurgency erupted in the region last year, according to Reuters.
Local officials say fighters from the Kamwina Nsapu group attacked a police convoy as it drove from the city of Tshikapa in Kasai province to Kananga, the capital of Kasai-Central province.
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“They were apprehended by the militia members and they decapitated about 40,” Francois Madila Kalamba, speaker of the Kasai provincial assembly said. The insurgents, however, spared the lives of six police officers who could speak the local Tshiluba language.
According to the BBC, the current spate of unrest in Kasai began last August, after security forces killed Jean-Pierre Pandi, the leader of the Kamwina Nsapu ethnic group.
In the wake of his death, his followers took up arms against the state and no less than 400 people have lost their lives in the violence since.
In addition to the seething anger over the death of their leader, the people of the Kasai region of Congo have historically suffered deprivation and neglect from the central government in the capital. According to various reports, no one from the vast region has ever led Congo before.
Last week, persons suspected to be part of the militia group abducted two United Nations (UN) officials (one American and one Swedish) alongside the four Congolese locals accompanying them. Word is yet to be heard from them.
The current situation in the Congo has been described as volatile. In addition to the activities of local militias, there have been multiple reports of extrajudicial killings and other atrocities by security agencies.
The UN says it has identified 10 mass graves where those killed in the unrest have been buried as well as another seven suspected mass burial sites.
The continued stay of President Joseph Kabila beyond his stipulated term in office, which expired last December, has equally served to inflame tensions.