The attackers had escaped by the time a UN military patrol arrived in Walungu sector on the morning of 27 May, said Maj Gabriel de Brosses, a MONUC spokesman. Another 12 bodies were found in surrounding forests, said Samuel Zungrana, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Bukavu.
"A group of 12 armed men suspected to be Rwandan fighters entered three small villages where they attacked and killed 17 villagers," the spokesman said on 28 May. "Almost all the victims were found in their beds. The fighters used sticks, machetes and other light weapons and the wounded are villagers who managed to flee."
The arrival of the UN peacekeepers, he added, prevented further massacres as fighters fled.
About 29 people were severely wounded and 12 kidnapped during the 27 May attack on Kanyola village, 50km east of Bukavu (administrative centre of South Kivu province), Constatin Charondagwa, a civil society activist in Bukavu told IRIN.
"The attackers were from the Front démocratique pour la libération du Rwanda [FDLR]," Charondagwa added.
The FDLR is made up of Rwandan fighters who were accused of involvement in the genocide that killed at least 800,000 Rwandans in 1994, and have since been active in the forests of eastern DRC.
A report by CNN said the killers left notes with the bodies saying the attack was in retaliation against recent Congolese armed forces operations directed against them.
Clashes between the FDLR and DRC army have occurred in South Kivu, displacing thousands of people. Last week, MONUC reported that thousands more had been newly displaced, forcing them to seek refuge along the border between North and South Kivu.
In a separate report, OCHA said murder, torture, arbitrary detention and looting were devastating civilians in growing numbers in the region.
According to OCHA, continuing clashes between militias and government forces had displaced 260,000 people in the past six months. As a result, the humanitarian situation in the North Kivu province, in particular, was deteriorating.
Eighty-five percent of MONUC's 17,000 peacekeepers and military observers are deployed in this volatile region.