February 28 will go down the annals of ADF/ISCAP/MTM when the joint forces in Operation Shujaa killed over 20, captured three, rescued 12 abductees, and recovered an assortment of weapons and ammunition.
It was on the evening of this day at Kilunga on the mountain ranges of Kisolhu, 9kms South of Nobili-Busunga border, when the joint forces flanked the enemy that was running towards Virunga National Park.
This battle took the entire night and morning of the following day as the forces were carrying out a search and rescue mission.
"We were very cautious to hit them hard since our objective was to rescue the abducted children," said the 1st Mountain Battalion commander. "A two days search found 16 ADF dead bodies in the surrounding areas, including the remains of Nfurusii, a Tanzanian and a gunner of 12.7mm Anti-Aircraft gun. Other bodies were hurriedly buried throughout the night by their colleagues."
A day before the infamous attack, ADF had abducted more than 20 civilians from areas of Kikura and Luanoli, hacked others, and looted medicine in Luanoli Health Center III.
Kabua Makuta, a 31-year-old mother of three and a resident of Luanoli lost her family members but only one of her children was rescued that day.
"We heard cries down the neighborhood and all of a sudden NALU came forcefully and took away Marina, Erieti, Auntie, Kavuto and others. I hid on the other rock. That's how I survived. Please we seek your assistance. May God help you to return our people," Kabua prayed.
Rev. Muhindo Mundala of the Pentecostal Church at Luanoli said ADF came broke into the hospital, grabbed what they could manage to carry, and burnt the entire maternity and Out-patient Department using petrol.
"After looting what they could manage to carry, they burnt the entire hospital. Fortunately, the doctor and we had run away to Busunga. We have just come back after seeing UPDF around. These two days we have slept peacefully. We thank you for coming. We want peace from you soldiers.," said Rev Muhindo.
Prisoners Of War (POW)
The Kilunga battle also harvested three POWs. Although they are juveniles, they were captured with their personal weapons and in ragtag FARDC uniforms.
Katembo Jonata, 12, was abducted and forcibly conscripted into rebel ranks in Beni at the burial site of their relative two years ago.
"At the burial place, they took many people but killed the old and mothers and took we the children," he said. Katembo is very fluent in Islamic teachings, good at skill at arms and fieldcraft.
Dan Kambale, 17, and Kasereka Sherize, 13, were conscripted into ADF in November 2021 by abduction in Butembo along the road as they were coming back from the gardens.
"ADF prefers to recruit mainly children because they are easy to assimilate, indoctrinate and turned into killing machines," said an information operations officer, adding that the first thing ADF does is to teach and convert the children to Islam doctrine and thereafter train them in skills at arms.
"Although they are still traumatized, they helped us to identify the dead bodies and commanders of ADF in the group."
All the rescued children were reintegrated with their families. The POWs after Psycho-social treatment will be handed over to the DRC authorities for further management.