ROME (CNS) — Jesuit Refugee Service has launched an alarm about brutal killings and village burnings by Congolese rebels from different ethnic groups, saying the violence has gone unchecked while peacekeeping forces and the army try to put down a rebellion.

In the past three months in the Masisi territory of eastern Congo, civilians “have been displaced on a daily basis and at least 18 have been murdered, caught between tit-for-tat attacks by opposing rebel groups” from the ethnic Hunde and Hutu communities, said a Nov. 14 statement from JRS.

The organization called on U.N. peacekeeping forces and the Congolese army to intervene to protect the civilian population.

The U.N. peacekeepers have been in Congo for six months helping the army respond to a rebellion by a group known as M23, which defected from the Congolese military.

JRS said more than 320,000 people have been forcibly displaced in the North Kivu region; while most have fled the fighting between the government and M23 forces, an increasing number are fleeing the violence created by Hunde and Hutu rebels in Masisi.

“A climate of fear currently reigns in the Hutu and Hunde communities in Masisi,” the statement said.

JRS reported that, in late September, Hunde villages were burned by members of the Nyatura militia, a Hutu group. The next day, Hunde rebels burned down huts in a camp for displaced persons, forcing the people — mostly Hutus — to flee.

In early November, JRS said, four Hunde women and two children were murdered by machete-wielding members of the Nyatura militia. A week later, the Hunde militia killed a Hutu man and burned down several villages around Buhabo.

The Hutu retaliated Nov. 12 by burning down Hunde villages outside Masisi town.

JRS, which has run programs for displaced people in North Kivu since 2008, said the international community must intervene to respond to “the pleas for security and humanitarian aid,” and to push “Congolese political, civil and military authorities to guarantee the protection of these populations. Otherwise free rein will continue to be given to militias responsible for the killing of innocent children, women and men.”