Another jihadist organization is feared to be gaining strength as the persecution of Christians intensifies in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At least 36 people were killed in the North Kivu region on Saturday, the deadliest attack since November 2014. The victims were tied up and hacked to death and some reports suggest the total casualties may be nearer to 50, according to World Watch Monitor.
The Islamist Allied Democratic Forces-National Association for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) has targeted Christians in the northeast of the DRC for years after their attempt to overthrow the Ugandan government failed.
The weekend killings are part of an ongoing resurgence in almost-weekly attacks, rapes, lootings and kidnappings in the DRC, according to WWM. But the increase in both the frequency and scale of the incidents suggest the jihadist organization is gaining prominence in DRC.
"We do not understand why this is happening to us," said one pastor, according to persecution watchdog Open Doors International. "The rebels just take people into the bush to kill them or kidnap them. They attack one place for a while and cause people to run away. Then they strike the places people run to."
A witness from Open Doors described the "misery" caused by the attacks.
"Signs of recent attacks are visible everywhere on buildings dotted along the road. Smaller villages have been obliterated and hardly any civilian life is visible," said an anonymous representative from the watchdog.
"Eighty percent of the households here have farms, but they cannot access them because is it simply too dangerous. This means no food and no revenue. They have become vulnerable to starvation," one official told the charity.
Catholics and Protestants make up the majority of Congo's population. Muslims constitute 5 percent of the population.