Unidentified attackers have killed at least 680 civilians in a series of massacres in eastern Congo over the past two years, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

A large presence of Congolese army soldiers and United Nations peacekeepers in the region have not prevented at least 120 attacks in Beni territory, where assailants “methodically hacked people to death with axes and machetes or shot them dead,” according to the human rights group.

“After two years of brutal killings, many people in Beni live in fear of the next attack and have all but lost hope that anyone can end the carnage,” said Ida Sawyer from HRW.

The attacks have been blamed on the Ugandan armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), one of the dozens of militias operating in eastern Congo.

But HRW said its research pointed to “the involvement of other armed groups and certain Congolese army officers in planning and carrying out some of these attacks.”

"It is not true that Congolese people have lost hope and faith in the government ... because the army is doing everything to ensure that all people living in [Congo] enjoy peace," government spokesman Lambert Mende told dpa by phone.

Mende blamed the massacres on “radical Islamists or jihadists.”

The ADF claims to have an Islamist ideology, but analysts say ideologies often serve as an excuse for armed groups vying for control over territory and mineral resources in the region.

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