More than 20 people, including children, are reported to have been killed in a series of brutal attacks in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The UN mission in the country has launched an investigation.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo said on Monday that the bodies of at least 21 people had been recovered after the violence, which had occurred in the east of the country over the weekend.
"The victims, including women and children - the youngest of which is thought to have been only a few months old - were hacked to death on December 13 and 14," a statement released by Martin Kobler, the head of the mission said.
"Three girls under 18 are reported to gave been raped by the attackers and then beheaded. The mutilated and dismembered body of a child is said to have been found in a tree, in the village of Musuku," he said, adding that "these atrocities will not go unpunished."
The MONUSCO statement didn't say who the UN believed may have been behind the attacks, which took place in several villages near the town of Beni in Congo's North Kivu province.
ADF-NALU rebels blamed
However, some have blamed the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda, also known by the acronym ADF-NALU.
"ADF-NALU has been moving for the last two or three weeks and this locality was in their route. ADF-NALU controls this area," North Kivu provincial lawmaker Jaribu Muliwavyo told the Reuters news agency. "It is terrorism, pure and simple."
The AFP news agency cited a statement from the umbrella organization North Kivu Civil Society, which asserted that "the carnage was perpetrated by ADF-NALU's Ugandan rebels."
The MONUSCO statement said an investigation had been launched and that reinforcements had been sent to the region to help protect the local civilian population.
A 3,000-strong UN intervention brigade helped the Congolese army defeat the key M23 rebels last month, but various armed groups continue to hold territory in the mountainous region along Congo's eastern border with Rwanda and Uganda.