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Thousands flee deadly fighting in east DR Congo: Officials

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo May 17, 2019, 09.46 PM (IST)

Thousands of civilians are fleeing fighting between the Democratic Republic of Congo's army and militia groups in the eastern South Kivu province, a local official told AFP on Friday.

Some 25,000 of them have gathered in Minwembe, the rural commune's deputy mayor Charles Sadiki told AFP.

"They are fleeing the fighting. Their homes have been burnt and pillaged. They have spent the night out of doors. They have no shelter. They have no food. No assistance," he said.

Sadiki said gunfire had been heard near Minembwe, where UN-funded Okapi radio reported that three militiamen were killed in combat with troops.

The United Nations said this week it had warded off several attacks on Minewemba.

Dozens of armed groups are active in the North and South Kivu provinces of DRC.

In the city of Beni in North Kivu, a local official said five civilians and soldiers were killed Friday in an attack attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

"The civilians were surprised in the fields by the ADF, who killed five of them by machete and took two with them," an administrator of Beni, Donat Kibwana, told AFP.

"One soldier was killed and another injured, and the search is continuing" for the abducted individuals, added army spokesman Mak Hazukay.

"We are still urging our political-military authorities to save the people of Beni from this situation," residents' representative Noella Muliwavio said.

The ADF, forced out of Uganda in the mid-1990s, is frequently accused by DRC authorities of attacking army positions in North Kivu.