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DR Congo: 7 killed by suspected Islamist militants

A fresh attack in the volatile region of Beni, in eastern DR Congo, has left at least seven dead.

The night raid on 22 Sep., which targeted communities in Kasinga, about 5km from the town of Beni, was carried out by suspected Islamist militants from the ADF-NALU group, local sources told World Watch Monitor.

Dozens of properties were also burned down. An undetermined number of injured and displaced people have sought refuge in churches and other, relatively safe, areas of Beni.

Beni is a predominantly Christian area, as is most of  DRC, but Independent Catholic News reports that within a few years the number of Muslims in eastern DRC has risen from 1% to 10%.

ADF-NALU was originally rooted in a rebel movement to overthrow Uganda’s government and replace it with an Islamist fundamentalist state, but it was forced to re-locate over the border into DRC. For years now, the radical group has been trying to uproot Christians from north-east DRC through attacks, rape, looting, kidnap and murder – on an almost weekly basis.

In May, local civil society organisations wrote to Congolese President Joseph Kabila to denounce the ongoing killings, which, they said, had claimed 1,116 lives between October 2014 and May 2016. That’s an average of 60 killed per month, or two a day, points out their letter.

It says some 1,470 others were abducted, while 34,297 families were forcibly displaced or are now unaccounted for. There were also numerous cases of sexual violence against women and children.

Kurds ‘expel Christians’ in Hassaka

Christians are being targeted as Kurdish militia assert their control in Syria’s north-eastern city of Hassaka, a senior local Christian leader has said.

"Whenever the Kurdish militia enter in action to reaffirm its military hegemony over the city, the epicentre of their raids and acts of force is always the area of the six churches, where most of the Christians live," Agenzia Fides this week quoted Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo as saying.

"In many cases they expelled the Christians from their homes under the threat of Kalashnikovs. And where they enter, they loot everything," Hindo added, noting he had himself narrowly escaped a bullet to the head when shots were fired through his window.

Back in June, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II escaped an attack during the celebration of Pentecost in Qamishli, a town an hour and half's drive northeast of Hassaka in an area largely controlled by Kurds.

Christians have fared worse in other parts of Syria. In areas under the sway of Islamic jihadists, including the ‘Islamic State’ (IS), Christians have all but disappeared from public view.

The UN estimates that of the 1.8 million Christians living in Syria before the war, only 600,000 – 900,000 remain. The 1.8-million number was itself a downgrade from a historically more prominent Christian character the Levant once had.

In Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war, the number of Christians has dwindled from 250,000 to fewer than 40,000. The besieged city to the northwest has been on the front-line of fighting between the government, rebel forces and IS for much of the war.

According to Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List, Syria ranks fifth among 50 countries where Christians face the most pressure.

Migrant boat captain tried for killing Christians

A Cameroonian is on trial for allegedly murdering six other occupants of a migrant boat because of their Christian beliefs, reports The Telegraph.

According to witnesses who survived the crossing from Morocco to Spain in 2014, the captain of the inflatable craft blamed Christian passengers for the onset of a storm before throwing them overboard to a certain death.

The accused, identified as Alain N.B., believed that the weather worsened every time the victims prayed, other survivors said. Their testimony revealed that a Nigerian priest was beaten with planks of wood ripped from the boat; he was thrown overboard after being badly wounded. The captain, with a Cameroonian accomplice who has since died, then searched other passengers for concealed Christian symbols. At least five other migrants were attacked after the search.

The boat was rescued off the coast of Spain in December 2014. At least 21 people died during the crossing, including seven babies. The trial is expected to last several days.

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