Congolese tribal militiamen captured and decapitated dozens of police officers following one of the deadliest ambushes in the volatile central African nation. Officials confirmed about 40 policemen were beheaded by the militants.

The Kamuina Nsapu fighters attacked a police convoy in Kasai province – the south-central region which has been witnessing a sharp surge in violence – on Friday (24 March). The militiamen, armed with machetes, raided the officers' convoy that was travelling from Tshikapa to Kananga.

Central parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo have witnessed frequent clashes between security forces and militia fighters in the recent past and civilians are frequently caught in the crossfire. Violence has steadily risen ever since the insurgency broke out in the area in 2016 despite the presence of the UN peacekeeping forces. More than 300 people have died and 200,000 have been displaced since last August.

"They [the policemen] were apprehended by the militia members and they decapitated about 40," speaker of the assembly, Francois Madila Kalamba, told Reuters. Local reports said six policemen who could speak the local Tshiluba language were freed by the militants.

"They ambushed the policemen as they travelled from Tshikapa to Kananga," Ambrose Muwasa, a senior security officer was quoted as saying. Rights activists have also confirmed the attack.

The provincial administration said it has launched a probe into the killings and vowed to punish the perpetrators. The rising violence across the country has been a major challenge for President Joseph Kabila.

Congo police ambush
Six policemen who spoke the local Tshiluba language were freed by the militants Robert Carrubba/Reuters