Man arrested, cleanup begins at Congo church where Islamist terror blast killed 17

Debris at the scene of the terror blast which killed 14 congregants at a church in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday (PHOTO: Reuters/Premier Christian News)

Originally published in Premier Christian News

The atmosphere at the Pentecostal church in the city of Kasindi in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was upbeat on Sunday as hundreds gathered for a series of baptisms. The congregation swelled beyond capacity, forcing organisers to move the service outside.

Then, about 10 minutes in, a blast rocked the courtyard where worshippers had gathered, three witnesses told Reuters on Monday. Dozens were wounded with burns and cuts from flying debris. Fourteen died, army spokesman Anthony Mwalushayi said on Monday. Yesterday, The Christian Post reported that the death toll has risen to “at least 17” and that police have arrested a Kenyan man in connection with the blast for which Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

Cleanup efforts have now begun at the site of the attack. A small crater marked the centre of the blast site. A charred pair of trainers and pieces of ripped tin roof were scattered amid mangled plastic chairs and wooden pews. Health workers took away the dead in coffins that they placed in the bed of a pick-up truck.

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“We were listening to the preacher when we heard a loud blast, it threw us to the ground,” Aline Pauni told Reuters from the bed of a nearby clinic where her burned feet were wrapped in bandages.

The attack was the latest against civilians by Islamist insurgents that roam eastern Congo and have killed thousands of villagers since 2014.

The army has blamed the attack on Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militant group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2019. The militant group could not be reached for comment and did not claim responsibility for the bombing.

Kasindi is in a province where DRC and Ugandan forces have launched a campaign against the ADF, which began as an uprising in Uganda but has been based in DRC since the late 1990s.

“We beg the authorities to bring us security so such acts do not happen again,” Paluku Kivugha, a relative of one of the dead, told Reuters. “Every time there are large groups of people there are risks.”

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