Authorities in DR Congo urged churches, restaurants, and hotels to step up security Sunday, fearing more violence after a suicide bomber killed five people in Beni, a town in the eastern part of the country.
Beni mayor Narcisse Muteba, a police colonel, warned owners of popular venues they needed to add security guards with metal detectors because terrorists could strike again.
“We are asking people to be vigilant and to avoid public places during this festive period,” Muteba.
Officials initially said the death toll was six plus the suicide bomber, but Muteba revised that figure a day later to five victims.
Thirteen others remained hospitalized after the blast at the entrance to the Inbox restaurant on Christmas Day. The death toll remains provisional.
Saturday’s bloodshed dramatically deepened fears that Islamic extremism has taken hold in Beni, which already has suffered years of attacks by rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF.
Muteba blamed the latest attack on the ADF, whose exact links to international extremist groups have been murky.
The Islamic State’s Central Africa Province has claimed responsibility for attacks blamed on ADF in the past, but it is unknown what role exactly it may have played in organising and financing the attacks.
There have been worrying signs that religious extremism was escalating around Beni. Two local imams were killed earlier this year within weeks of each other, one of whom had spoken out against the ADF.
Then in June, the Islamic State group’s Central Africa Province claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber who blew himself up near a bar in Beni without harming others.
Another explosion that same day at a Catholic church wounded two people.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday’s attack, in which authorities say the bomber ultimately was stopped from entering the crowded restaurant.