A notorious militia has killed nearly 800 civilians in eastern DR Congo since the start of last year, the UN said on Monday, adding that the attacks may amount to crimes against humanity.
The Islamist ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) has committed "widespread, systematic and extremely brutal" rights abuses, according to a report by the UN's Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in DR Congo.
Between January 1 last year and January 1 this year, the report documented the killing of 496 civilians -- 142 women, 25 children and 329 men.
"The majority of the victims were killed using bladed weapons or were shot," it added.
Over that period, human rights cases attributed to the ADF -- killings, abductions, forced labour and attacks against hospitals and schools -- rose by 67 percent compared with the previous year.
The bloodshed has continued this year, the report said, with 297 people killed between February 1 and June 30.
"Entire families have been hacked to death," it said, adding that in most attacks there was "a clear intention to leave no survivors".
"Under international law, the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law committed by ADF combatants could constitute, by their nature and scope, crimes against humanity and war crimes," it said.
The ADF is one of dozens of militia groups operating in eastern DR Congo, a legacy of the two Congo wars in the 1990s that pulled in neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda.
The group originated in neighbouring Uganda but moved to DRC in 1995.
In the 2000s, it has focused on establishing a "business network" with people in the security apparatus of DR Congo, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania, the report said.
Last year, the Congolese army launched a campaign against the group that led to an "intensification of deadly attacks" by the ADF, the UN report said.
It said the attacks also intensified in part because of the redeployment of the security forces of the UN's DR Congo mission MONUSCO.
The report said DR Congo forces had also committed human rights violations, including the extrajudicial killing of eight civilians.