DR Congo air strikes helped 27 hostages escape ADF rebels: army

Government forces in eastern DR Congo are struggling to contain massacres by the ADF, a jihadist group linked to the Islamic State (AFP/ALEXIS HUGUET)
Government forces in eastern DR Congo are struggling to contain massacres by the ADF, a jihadist group linked to the Islamic State. /AFP

Democratic Republic of Congo’s army on Friday said a military operation including air and artillery strikes against the ADF rebel group earlier this week allowed 27 hostages to escape.

DRC and neighbouring Uganda are leading a joint operation against the Allied Democratic Forces rebel group in DRC’s border provinces of North Kivu and Ituri.

The Ugandan army late on Friday said the operation — dubbed “Shujja”, or courageous in Swahili — was targeting four camps of the ADF group.

The ADF has been blamed for massacres in eastern DRC and attacks in the Ugandan capital, and the Islamic State jihadist group claims it as an affiliate.

Ugandan armed forces launched air and artillery strikes from Ugandan territory against the ADF on Tuesday.

A DRC army spokesman said on Friday that the operations had “allowed 27 citizens kidnapped by the ADF to escape”.

One of the hostages, Paluku Makombozi, told the army’s radio broadcaster FARDC-FM that he had escaped one early morning.

“At around 3 am, a drone passed overhead,” he said in Swahili, and the ADF told them to put out a fire that they had lit.

“At around 6 am, we heard the bombs,” he said, adding that he overheard a rebel say it was Uganda bombing them. “We dispersed and, thank God, we managed to find out way to the way to the (DRC) army camp.”

Makombozi said that he was working in a field in the neighboring province of Ituri when the “Muslim” rebels took him hostage. He did not say when this happened.

Tanzanian driver Selemani Hassan said he was on his way to the DRC town of Komanda when gunmen abducted him on November 5. He was then led into the scrubland, where he met other Tanzanians among the captives.

“They tried to convince us to convert to Islam,” he said of the ADF.

The day he was able to escape, “we saw drones and then the bombing started… They scattered, and I escaped too,” he said.