KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on Sunday authorized U.S. special forces to help the Congolese army fight the Allied Democratic Forces, an armed group linked to the Islamic State.
The ADF, which the United States has deemed a terrorist group, is considered the deadliest of scores of armed militias that roam the mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Catholic Church in the country says the ADF has killed about 6,000 civilians since 2013, while a respected U.S.-based monitor, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), blames it for more than 1,200 deaths in the Beni area alone since 2017.
“President Felix Tshisekedi authorized the deployment of American anti-terrorism experts in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said a statement from the presidency.
The U.S. forces will boost the Congolese army’s fight against ADF in the national parks of Virunga and Garamba, it added.
The mission will last several weeks and is specifically directed against the ADF.
U.S. Ambassador Mike Hammer, who presented the team to Tshisekedi, said that their presence was part of a partnership agreed between the two countries in 2019, according to the presidency’s statement.
In March, the U.S. State Department said the ADF is notorious across the region for its “brutal violence against Congolese citizens and regional military forces.” The U.S. has sanctioned alleged leader Seka Musa Baluku and said IS has acknowledged the ADF as an affiliate since 2019.
Congolese authorities’ crackdown against ADF has included a “state of siege” in which members of the security forces have replaced top officials in North Kivu and neighboring Ituri province.