Islamic State Says Fighters Struck Congo's Army for First Time

(Bloomberg) -- Islamic State claimed to have carried out its first attack inside the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying Thursday on its Amaq news agency that fighters killed three government soldiers.

The government confirmed the shootout on Tuesday at a barracks in the village of Bovata, near the Uganda border, but Congolese army spokesman Major Mak Hazukay said two, rather than three, soldiers died. The attack was carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist militia, he said.

More than 100 armed groups are active in eastern Congo while over a dozen operate in the area around the town of Beni, the site of Tuesday’s attack. More than 1,000 people have been massacred near Beni since October 2014 -- with the government blaming most of the killings on the ADF, which was founded in Uganda in the 1990s.

United Nations experts and researchers say other militias and senior Congolese army officers have been involved in planning and carrying out the assaults.

Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on a recent U.S. trip said the ADF has been infiltrated by members of IS, which has called for the creation of a caliphate in central Africa. The president and the U.S. issued a joint statement on April 12, saying Congo will “join the international coalition against the Islamic State.”

While a report in November by New York University’s Congo Research Group showed some financial and personal links between the ADF and IS, researchers dispute the depth of collaboration. “The ADF is still an extremely reclusive group,” CRG Director Jason Stearns told Bloomberg, noting both Congo and Uganda wish to attract anti-terrorist assistance from the US.

The U.S. Africa Command thinks the ADF has “meaningful ties” to IS, spokeswoman Samantha Reho said this week.

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