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Rebels in Congo's east kill at least 23 people in villages overnight, local official says

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KINSHASA, Congo — Suspected rebels in Congo's North Kivu province using machetes and axes killed 23 people in overnight attacks on villages in the country's east, an official said Thursday.

The bodies were found Thursday morning in several small villages about 22 kilometers (14 miles) north of the town of Beni, said Amisi Kalonda, Beni territory official. Kalonda blamed suspected rebels with the Allied Democratic Forces for the attacks.

People took to the streets of Beni on Tuesday to protest insecurity in the area. Six people had been killed Monday night not far from the Mavivi airport, said civil society leader Teddy Kataliko. Suspected ADF rebels had also killed at least seven people on Friday in the Mulekera district in North Kivu, Kataliko said on Sunday. This brings the toll in the past week to 36 people killed.

More than 300 civilians have been killed in the past five months in this area of North Kivu, Kataliko said.

The ADF, which originated in neighboring Uganda, is one of many armed groups operating in eastern Congo, staging sporadic attacks on towns there and against Congolese military units. The group's leader, Jamil Mukulu, who had been on the run since the 1990s, was recently arrested in Tanzania.

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