GOMA, DR Congo - Militiamen from DR Congo's Nande ethnic group have killed 25 civilians in the country's violence-torn east, almost all of them hacked to death with machetes, local officials and activists said Saturday.
"In total 25 people were killed, decapitated by machete by the Mai-Mai Mazembe in and around the village of Kyaghala," Francis Bakundakabo, the local representative of the governor of North Kivu province, told AFP.
"All of these people were Hutu civilians," he said, adding that the killings took place between 4:00 am and 8:00 am on Saturday morning.
Hope Kubuya, a local civil society activist whose group went to verify the attack, said 24 of the victims had been killed with machetes and one woman shot dead.
"This raid by the Mai-Mai Mazembe in the Hutu village will enflame the inter-ethnic conflict in the region," he added.
The Mai-Mai are a "self-defence" militia who count members of DR Congo's Nande, Hunde and Kobo communities among their ranks, in opposition to rivals from the Nyaturu group representing ethnic Hutus.
The area around Kyaghala is majority-Hutu.
The last major attack to strike the volatile region came in December when at least 35 civilians were killed in clashes between fighters from the two groups.
DR Congo's Nande, Hunde and Kobo people largely regard Hutus as foreigners, while the migration north of Hutu farmers -- forced to abandon their southern territory due to rising land prices and under pressure from powerful landowners -- has added to the strain.
Tensions between the Nande and Hutu communities have been growing worse for more than a year, with a series of village attacks by militia groups on both sides in the centre of North Kivu. The province, like much of eastern DRC, has been riven by conflict for more than two decades.