30 December 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: Violence Rocks DR Congo Capital, Scores Killed

Photo: Jessica Hatcher/IRIN
Government forces beat back armed gunmen who had taken over the international airport, state television and army headquarters in Kinshasa (file photo).

Assailants armed with automatic weapons and machetes have attacked the Congolese state television station, army headquarters and the international airport, before being deterred by military forces.

Democratic Republic of Congo government spokesperson Lambert Mende confirmed the three attacks in Kinshasa, saying at least 40 people were killed during the shootings on Monday. That figure, he added, was comprised of 16 at the military base, 16 at the airport and eight at the television station. Six had been captured, he said. The attacks occurred around roughly the same time in the morning.

"No civilian casualties have been reported and no victims in the security forces," Mende said, adding the attackers had yet to be identified.

"These are terrorists, you can't call them anything else," Mende said.

It is believed the attack is a coup attempt to oust the country's president, Joseph Kabila.

Many Congolese realized the attack was taking place when the attackers burst into a live broadcast of a morning talk show on Radio Television Nationale Congolaise, the state broadcaster.

The presenter was mid-sentence when the intruders burst in, indentifying themselves as devotees of a local prophet, before the signal was cut, Pascal Amisi, Congo's deputy minister of staff for the Minister of Communication said.

"Around 30 men attacked the TV station while the 'Le Panier' show was in progress. They came in with knives and said they had a political message to share, before the signal was yanked."

"We don't know for sure who they are but the group that attacked the television station said they were representing Prophet Mukungubila," he added.

Armed youths believed to be loyal to a pastor who challenged the country's president, Joseph Kabila, in the 2006 election are thought to have taken several reporters from the television station hostage.

A television station employee who was in the building at the time of the attack said "there was an element of confusion, and terror...they started firing, and we hid."

The United States embassy issued the following warning to its citizens: "The embassy urges all US citizens in Kinshasa to stay in place and not travel around the city until further notice."

(AFP, AP, Reuters)

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