BENI, Congo — Authorities in northeastern Congo say more than 40 new deaths have been reported in an area where fighting has erupted between two communities in recent weeks.

Willy Maese, deputy administrator in Djugu, said hundreds of homes were also set ablaze during the attack Sunday in two villages in Ituri province.

Maese said investigations were underway and that the death toll is likely to rise as bodies were recovered from the surrounding countryside.

The latest cycle of violence between the Hema and Lendu communities broke out in December. More than 150 people are now believed to have died over the three-month period. Tens of thousands have fled the area in fear.

The Lendu and Hema groups fought a war between 1999 and 2004, prompting the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers.

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