Suspected militants killed at least 62 civilians in a series of attacks this week in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the army is waging a counter-insurgency campaign against the militants and rebels, the government said on Saturday.
The government provided the death toll of 62 in the minutes of a cabinet meeting, without offering any additional details. It said the army was "dismantling the networks of collaborators and of her agents thanks to the information provided by captured ADF [Allied Democratic Forces] fighters".
Officials said on Wednesday that at least 30 people had been killed overnight near the city of Oicha. Civil society activists reported that dozens more civilians were killed in attacks on nearby villages on Thursday.
The upsurge in violence after a period of relative calm in early January undercuts government claims of security progress against the ADF, a Ugandan group active in Beni territory.
Rights group The Centre for Studies to promote Peace, Democracy and Human Rights (CEPADHO) said ADF militants had killed at least 74 civilians, many of them women and children, with knives and guns.
It said the attacks spanned about 10 villages over the course of less than 48 hours.
Over 300 killed since October
The army has repeatedly claimed to have made sweeping progress against the group by killing several top commanders and capturing many of its camps in the dense forests near the Ugandan border.
But the ADF, which arrived in Congo from Uganda in the 1990s, has survived frequent onslaughts from DRC forces and UN peacekeepers, and taken revenge on civilian populations.
It is one of the dozens of armed groups active in DRC's mineral-rich eastern borderlands, where regional wars around the turn of the century resulted in millions of deaths.
The Kivu Security Tracker, a research initiative that maps unrest in the region, said the latest attacks bring to at least 312 the number of civilians killed by the ADF in Beni since the army launched its offensive on October 30.
Daesh has publicly claimed responsibility for several attacks carried out in Beni territory, but the United Nations and various researchers have been unable to confirm any direct link between Daesh and the ADF.
Seven killed in new raid
Also on Saturday, seven people were killed in a fresh attack by the Mai-Mai militia on three police posts in the east, CEPADHO said.
Seven bodies were found and seven others were injured in the raids late Friday in Mamove in the volatile Beni region, the rights group said.
It was not clear if the dead were civilians or policemen.
In the neighbouring Ituri province, militiamen attacked a hospital at Biakato, which was serving as an Ebola treatment centre.
The UN's Okapi radio said work at the centre had been suspended as a result.
"Two Mai-Mai militiamen were killed and a schoolgirl was injured by a bullet," Idriss Koma, the top local official told AFP news agency.
The attackers were pushed back by UN peacekeepers and DRC soldiers, sources said.
Spate of massacres
The spate of massacres has become a major challenge for President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office about a year ago.
In November, angry protests erupted in the city of Beni, an administrative hub, as citizens accused the UN peacekeeping force in DRC of failing to protect them.