By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KINSHASA (Worthy News) – Dozens of worshipers have been killed and injured in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where Islamist militants bombed a Sunday service at a Pentecostal church, the government and military said.
The attack in the Congolese city of Kasindi, on the border with Uganda, was carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militant group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror organization, officials claimed.
Sunday’s bomb blast killed at least 10 people and wounded 39 others, authorities said. However, other government officials cautioned that the death toll could be as high as 16 or 17. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancies in estimates in a chaotic situation.
“The government strongly condemns the bomb attack visibly perpetrated by ADF terrorists this Sunday, 15/01/2023, against citizens in full worship in the parish of the 8th Community of Pentecostal Churches of Congo in the city of Kasindi in North Kivu [province],” the Congolese Ministry of Transportation and Communication said in remarks monitored by Worthy News.
In another statement seen by Worthy News, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi stressed that he was “very saddened by this heinous crime.” But, he added, “the Head of State presents his deepest condolences to the bereaved families, reassuring that the culprits will be prosecuted, arrested, tried, and severely punished.”
There was no known claim of responsibility by the ADF for the attack late Sunday. However, a Congolese military spokesman, Antony Mualushayi, called it a “terrorist act” in a nation still reeling from other terror attacks and warfare.
Experts say the ADF is one of the deadliest of the more than 120 armed groups in eastern DRC. Many militants were involved in regional wars that flared at the turn of the century. The ADF has been blamed for slaughtering thousands of Congolese civilians and carrying out bomb attacks in neighboring Uganda. ADF operatives have also planted bombs in towns in North Kivu in the past.
The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) condemned the attack but did blame Islamist militants for the attack. “MONUSCO condemns the cowardly and despicable attack against a church in Kasindi (North Kivu), causing the death of several people and many injuries. It presents its condolences to the families of the victims, to the Congolese people, and to the government of the Republic,” MONUSCO said in a statement.
The U.S. Congress calls ADF an “armed group primarily active in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” In a September report on the group, the Congress said the ADF pledged allegiance to Islamic State and threatened long-running efforts by the United States to help stabilize the DRC.
According to Christian researchers, some 95 percent of DRC’s population of more than 92 million people are Christian. Yet, Sunday’s attack against the Pentecostal church underscored broader concerns about the plight of Christians in eastern DRC. “Although a very high percentage of the population is Christian, the Islamic extremist group ADF is responsible for the persecution of Christians in the east of the country, brutally attacking Christians and churches,” said the advocacy group Open Doors.
It came as elsewhere in Africa, in Nigeria, a Catholic priest was killed when his house was set on fire by suspected Muslim “bandits” who also injured another priest as he attempted to flee, church sources said Sunday.
Additionally, Christian converts from Islam or indigenous religions “face pressure” to participate “in non-Christian religious activities and ceremonies” in the DRC. Also, “Christian women in DRC are vulnerable to abduction, rape, sexual torture, and forced labor. There are reports of many Christian women and girls, particularly those who’ve converted from Islam, being abducted and forcibly married,” Open Doors stressed.
“The persecution faced by Christian men is usually extremely violent, and there is little chance of legal justice when these terrible things happen.
The targeting of Christian men also serves to weaken their families and the wider church,” added the group which works in the DRC and other African nations.
While the Congolese authorities condemned attacks against Christians, several Christian leaders who advocated against corruption have risked “harassment and interference from the government”, warned Open Doors.
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