By Victoria Magar
A makeshift bomb exploded inside a Catholic church in the city of Beni in DR Congo’s conflict-plagued east on Sunday, injuring two women just an hour before a children’s confirmation ceremony was due to be held.
The attack marks the first time a Catholic building has been targeted in the region, which has declared a “state of siege” due to rising violence from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia accused of killing thousands.
The head of police in Beni’s town hall Narcisse Muteba Kashale told AFP that the explosion occurred at 6:00 am (0400 GMT), and that the homemade bomb had been “set up for an ambush”.
Beni’s vicar general Laurent Sondirya said two women were injured in the blast, which went off shortly before crowds were due to start gathering for the confirmation ceremony.
“They were targeting a large crowd because the ceremony would bring together children, their parents and the faithful,” he told AFP.
The mass to “administer the sacrament of confirmation would not be postponed”, he added.
Traces of blood could be seen at the entrance to the church in the aftermath of the explosion, an AFP reporter said, while shards of glass where scattered inside and the sound equipment was destroyed.
“I had just entered the church, I hadn’t even managed to sit down, I heard ‘Boom’… Blood started flowing from my mouth,” one of the injured women, Antoinette Kavira, told AFP from her hospital bed.
“I lost four teeth and was injured in the arms,” she added.
The second victim still in shock after being wounded in the leg.
The explosion was heard around the Emmanuel Butsili parish in a working-class neighbourhood of Beni, witnesses told AFP.
Experts from the UN’s MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo went to the scene and secured the perimeter.
Parish priest Isidore Kambale said a security commission had been set up. “We have to be vigilant,” he told AFP.