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A suicide bomber attacks a restaurant in the DRC: children among the victims

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Heavy gunfire rang out shortly after the bomb exploded; panicked crowds fled the city center.

Saturday’s attack marks the first time known that a suicide bomber has claimed victims in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where an Islamic State-affiliated group earlier this year took responsibility for a suicide bombing near another bar in Beni.

Mayor Narcisse Muteba, who is also a police colonel, said at least two of the victims were children. The injured survivors were taken to the local hospital, he said.

At least 13 other people were injured and taken to a local hospital.

Investigations are underway to find the perpetrators of this terrorist attack, Muteba told theAssociated Press.

He urged people to return home and stay there while authorities investigate what happened.

General Sylvain Ekenge, spokesperson for the governor of North Kivu, said security guards prevented the suicide bomber from entering the crowded bar and the person instead set off the explosives at the entrance.

We call on people to stay alert and avoid crowded areas during the holiday season, he said in a statement. In the city and territory of Beni, it is difficult in these times to know who is who.

Rachel Magali had been at the restaurant and bar for about three hours with her sister-in-law and several others when she heard a loud noise outside.

Suddenly we saw black smoke surrounding the bar and people started to cry, she told theAssociated Press. We rushed to the exit, where I saw people lying down. There were green plastic chairs strewn all over the place and I also saw heads and arms that were no longer attached. It was really horrible.

The city has long been the target of Allied Democratic Forces rebels, or Allied Democratic Forces, which have their origins in neighboring Uganda. But a group affiliated with the Islamic State armed group claimed responsibility for two explosions in Beni in June, heightening fears that religious extremism has also taken hold there.

Last June, the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced its first suicide bombing attack when a Ugandan blew himself up in front of a bar. The Islamic State Province in Central Africa group later said the suicide bomber was targeting Christians. Another explosion that day occurred in front of the Emmanuel-Butsili Catholic Church in Beni, injuring two people.

Residents of the town have repeatedly expressed their anger at the continued insecurity despite an army offensive and the presence of peacekeepers from theUnited Nations Organization in Beni.

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