Fourteen Killed in Islamic State Attack on Congo Church

A mother mourns the death of two of her sons, killed in another attack earlier this month

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a Sunday bomb attack on a Pentecostal church in the eastern Kasindi province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC military confirmed 14 deaths and 63 injuries as of Monday morning.

Eyewitnesses told Agence France-Presse (AFP) the attackers detonated an improvised explosive device inside the church during a baptism ceremony:

“Several among us died on the spot, others had their feet cut in two,” the 42-year-old told AFP. “God saved me and I came out in good health with my choir members. Today was not the day I should die”.

Fellow survivor, Jean-Paul Syauswa, said the explosion happened just after a group of people had been baptized, while a blind pastor was commenting on Bible verses.

“The bomb threw me at least 100 meters (yards) away,” he said.

A man who lost his brother in the attack complained that the government was not doing enough to protect local citizens, even though a large military force is stationed in the area to prosecute a long-running battle against insurgents.

“How can such a situation happen when Kasindi is full of soldiers?” the bereaved man wondered.

A picture taken on November 13, 2018, shows Tanzanian soldiers from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patroling against Ugandan Allied Democratic Force (ADF) rebels in Beni. - The Beni area has for the last four years been under seige from the ADF, an Islamist armed group that has killed hundreds of people since 2014. (Photo by John WESSELS / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHN WESSELS/AFP via Getty Images)

A picture taken on November 13, 2018, shows Tanzanian soldiers from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patrolling against Ugandan Allied Democratic Force (ADF) rebels in Beni. (JOHN WESSELS/AFP via Getty Images)

Another witness who was seated in a tent outside the church at the time of the attack told the Associated Press (AP) the detonation sounded like a “tire going flat.” She was injured in the leg, while her nearby sister-in-law was instantly killed.

“I am traumatized from seeing people die around me,” she said.

The AP reported injured victims from the attack were evacuated to the hospital in nearby Beni by MONUSCO, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Congo.

Kasindi is near the border with Uganda, in a region where the DRC is battling one of several vicious insurgent groups, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

The ADF is a Ugandan jihadist rebel group that migrated to the Congo in 1995 and swore allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2019. The group has both Congolese and Ugandan members, and seeks to overthrow both governments to create an Islamic “caliphate.”

The ADF has killed at least 370 civilians over the past year and kidnapped hundreds more. The group frequently targets Christians, including worshipers, clergy, and children. Eyewitnesses reported seeing “the bodies of children on the ground” after the Sunday attack. 

The DRC military initially blamed the ADF for the Kasindi church bombing, citing the heavy presence of ADF forces in the surrounding area, although the group has not staged an attack in Kasindi since 2014. The ADF had not released a statement on the attack as of Monday morning.

The Islamic State took direct credit for the attack through its Telegram channel on Sunday.

“Let the Congolese forces know that their continued attacks on the Mujahideen will only bring them more failure and losses,” ISIS said in its statement.

MONUSCO condemned the “cowardly and despicable attack.” DRC President Felix Tshisekedi called it a “heinous crime” and promised the perpetrators would be “prosecuted, arrested, tried and severely punished.”


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