Suicide Bomber Kills At Least Six In Eastern Congo On Christmas Day | Democratic Republic of Congo
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A suicide bomber attacked a restaurant and bar in Beni on Christmas Day, killing at least six people in the eastern Congo town where Islamic extremists are known to be active.
Heavy gunfire erupted shortly after the bomb exploded, with panicked crowds fleeing the center of town.
General Sylvain Ekenge, spokesman for the governor of North Kivu, said security guards prevented the suicide bomber from entering the crowded bar and the person therefore detonated the explosives at the entrance.
“We call on people to be vigilant and to avoid crowded areas during the holiday season,” he said. “In the city and the territory of Beni, it is difficult, in these times, to know who is who.
Rachel Magali had been at the restaurant and bar for about three hours with her sister-in-law and several others when she heard a loud noise outside.
“Suddenly we saw black smoke surrounding the bar and people started crying,” she told The Associated Press. “We rushed to the exit where I saw people lying down. There were green plastic chairs scattered all over the place and I also saw heads and arms that were no longer attached. It was really horrible.
Among the dead were two children, according to Mayor Narcisse Muteba, who is also a police colonel. At least 13 other people were injured and taken to a local hospital.
“Investigations are underway to find the perpetrators of this terrorist attack,” he told AP.
The city has long been the target of rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group whose origins can be traced back to neighboring Uganda. But an Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for two explosions in Beni in June, heightening fears that religious extremism has also taken hold there.
These explosions included the first known suicide bombing in eastern Congo, a Ugandan man who blew himself up in front of a bar.
The Islamist group’s Central African Province later said the suicide bomber was targeting Christians. The other explosion that day occurred inside a Catholic church, injuring two people.
Residents of the city have repeatedly expressed their anger at the continued insecurity despite an army offensive and the presence of UN peacekeepers in Beni.
In recent years, the city has also suffered an Ebola outbreak and has seen several smaller outbreaks of the disease.
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