At least 48 people have been killed in a crackdown on an anti-UN protest in eastern DR Congo, according to local sources.
On Wednesday, Congolese soldiers cracked down on a religious sect planning a demonstration against United Nations peacekeepers in the city of Goma.
Some ten people were initially reported killed, including a police officer who was lynched by sect members.
But an internal army document consulted by AFP, and verified by security officials, gave a toll of 48 people killed in the crackdown — in addition to the killed policeman — and 75 people wounded.
The document also says that soldiers seized a number of bladed weapons and arrested 168 people, including the sect’s leader.
Congolese pro-democracy activist group LUCHA also stated on Thursday that the number of protesters killed was “close to 50”.
Two unverified video clips circulating on social media on Thursday appeared to show Congolese soldiers throwing lifeless bodies — some drenched in blood — into the back of a military vehicle.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s east has been ravaged by militia violence for three decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s.
The UN peacekeeping mission in the region is one of the largest and costliest in the world, with an annual budget of about $1 billion (915,000,000 euros).
But the UN comes in for sharp criticism in the central African nation, where many people perceive the peacekeepers as failing to prevent conflict.