Eighteen people were killed during an ethnic clash between militias from Nande and Hutu in eastern Rutshuru territory on Thursday, according to the military.

“Among the dead is a police officer and 17 civilians,” Maj. Kaiko Ndjike Guillaume, an army spokesman, told the media in Goma city, the provincial capital of North Kivu.

The victims mainly had gunshot and machete wounds, according to an eyewitness.

Cyrille Muhindo Mbweki, a human rights activist and member of the Nande tribe based in the North Kivu province, told Anadolu Agency that at least 500 houses had also been burnt down in the attack attributed to the Mayi-Mayi rebels, Nyatura, a predominantly Hutu militia.

Conflicts between ethnic groups in North Kivu province are mostly due to economic reasons. The militias in each community are fighting for control of land or mining areas. It is from smuggled minerals that these armed groups obtain their weapon supplies, according to experts.

Last November, the Mayi-Mayi Mazembe militia, close to the Nande ethnic community, attacked the Hutu displaced persons camp in Luhanga, where some 30 of the displaced were killed. Georges Katsongo, a member of civil society in the territory of Lubero, said: “After the attack on the displaced persons camp, members of the Hutu community indicated that they will take their revenge.”

“It is time for a peaceful solution to be found by the Congolese state before this ethnic conflict grows in the region,” Katsongo added.

Since the end of 2014, ethnic clashes have been reported in Lubero, Rutshuru and Walikale territories in North Kivu province, leaving dozens of people dead, hundreds of houses burnt down and thousands displaced.

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