A Congolese soldier accused of gunning down 13 people, most of them children, in the northeast of the conflict-plagued country has been arrested and will stand trial Tuesday, a military source said.
According to witnesses to the killings in Nyakova village on Saturday, the suspect couldn’t bear the fact that his own child had been buried in his absence.
Nyakova is a fishing village in the Djugu territory, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Bunia, the capital of Ituri province, one of eastern DR Congo’s violence hotspots where deadly attacks are common.
The angry soldier had returned home and “fired on civilians” gathered “at the place of mourning, on the grounds that… his child had died and been buried without him being informed,” army spokesperson Lieutenant Jules Ngongo told AFP.
The death toll of 13 was said to include nine children, including two of the soldier’s own offspring, the spokesperson said.
Magistrate Colonel Joseph Makelele, senior military prosecutor at the Ituri province military court, told AFP that the 32-year-old suspect named Babby Ndombe Opetu would be prosecuted “for murder and violation of orders” Tuesday.
Ngongo said the suspect was a noncommissioned member of the 332nd naval force based at Tchomia, just two kilometers (1.24 miles) from Nyakova on the shores of Lake Albert bordering Uganda.
The military spokesman said the suspect had fled the scene of the attack and gone into hiding in Tchomia, where he was found late Sunday and “handed over to the courts for trial.”
A civil society source said Sunday that a 14th victim had died due to his injuries, but that has not been confirmed. According to another source, a neighbor, panicked by the gunfire, suffered a heart attack and died.