Bishop defiant after six killed in Christmas Day suicide bombing in eastern Congo

(Photo: Unsplash/Greg Rosenke)

Six people have been killed in a Christmas Day suicide bombing in a region of the Democratic Republic of Congo where Christians have been targeted in the past.

A suicide bomber blew himself up at the Ishango restaurant in Beni, North Kivu, eastern DRC, at around 7pm, as people were enjoying a Christmas Day meal. 

The dead include the suicide bomber. Officials said that two of the victims were children. 

No group has claimed responsibility but officials have blamed it on Islamist terror group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group that has committed atrocities across North Kivu and Ituri provinces, and targeted churches earlier this year. 

According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the ADF has killed hundreds of Christians and left thousands homeless and displaced this year.  

An ICC partner who cannot be named for security reasons said the Christmas Day bombing bore the hallmarks of the ADF. 

"This is an action of terror," the partner said. 

"Today's attack was unexpected because we are used to hearing incidences of Christians being killed in the villages.

"The last time we had such terror attacks in this town of Beni was in May and June, where the attackers also planted bombs in churches, but that was stopped by the government forces.

"In June, one woman was killed and others injured when a bomb planted inside a church's compound exploded. Another bomb had been trapped at a bar that killed several revellers."

The attack has been condemned by the Anglican Bishop of Beni, who called it a "cowardice activity carried out by weak rebels who want to make followers of their faith by force".

Bishop Cyrile Kambale said that Christians would continue celebrating Christmas with joy. 

"Recently, the attacks have only been ... in the villages where there is not enough security watch... but now it seems like the terrorists are trying to make a statement that they are still present even in cities," he said.

"They targeted the hotel because they knew that many people would gather in the evening to continue celebrating Christmas.

"Today, churches met as usual to begin the Christmas holiday ... but now things have taken a new turn.

"However, we shall not let fear diminish the joy of Christ in this season, and we shall stand in prayer with the families of those killed today."

The government has condemned the attack in statement. 

"The government condemns the explosion, on this Christmas evening, of a bomb in a restaurant in Beni, the work of a suicide bomber. The security services are deployed," it said.