KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — The Islamic State has claimed its first attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo, planting a flag in a region already troubled by violence and an outbreak of the Ebola virus.
Eight soldiers were killed in the attack, which took place on Tuesday, according to Congolese officials. They initially said that the assailants appeared to have belonged to the Allied Democratic Forces, a rebel group with origins in neighboring Uganda that is accused of killing hundreds of people over the past three years.
But on Thursday Islamic State propagandists asserted responsibility and described Congo as the “Central Africa Province of the Caliphate,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Islamic State announcements.
It was the first time that the Islamic State has asserted responsibility for an attack in Congo, a vast country where the central government has limited reach and where rebel groups have proliferated for many years.
The attack came in an area near the border of Uganda that is already beset with an outbreak of Ebola that health workers have struggled to contain because of a range of reasons, including violent attacks on treatment centers.
Earlier this month, President Felix Tshisekedi was quoted in news reports as saying he expected that the Islamic State might try to bolster its presence in the region following the destruction of its self-proclaimed caliphate centered in Syria and Iraq.
“It’s easy to see how the defeat of Daesh, the Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq could lead to a situation where these groups will now come to Africa and take advantage of widespread poverty and chaos,” Mr. Tshisekedi was quoted as saying.
In recent years, the Allied Democratic Forces has been “making a tentative attempt to align itself with other jihadist groups,” according to a report last year by the Congo Research Group at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.
A book issued by the Islamic State was apparently found in the possessions of a dead Allied Democratic Forces combatant last year, according to the report, which also noted that members of the Allied Democratic Forces had begun to post propaganda messages on social media in recent years, some depicting attacks.
The assault claimed by the Islamic State occurred in Kamango, a village near Beni city in North Kivu province.