Ex-militia attack military, police in Republic of Congo

AP News
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Posted: Apr 04, 2016 3:25 PM

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (AP) — Former militiamen attacked a military position and burned police stations in the Republic of Congo's capital early Monday, the government said.

Police forces exchanged fire with the attackers, and were restoring order, the government said in a statement as heavy gunfire subsided. The government said it was investigating if Monday's violence was election-related, and condemned any candidates who may have called for unrest.

Former members of the militia, known by the name Ninjas Nsiloulou, attacked a military position in the Mayanga neighborhood of Brazzaville, the government said. Police stations in Djoue, Makelekele, Lemina and Kinsoundi neighborhoods, along with the Makelekele mayor's office were set on fire, it said.

The government urged calm. The statement did not give further details.

Residents were forced from their homes in the south of the capital, and dozens carried their belongings in bags, in bundles on their heads or in cars, using the lull in violence to relocate to northern districts.

"I prefer to take precautions," said Evanne Kani of Bacongo. She was heading to her grandmother's, saying the militiamen could easily hide.

Monday's fighting comes weeks after the re-election of President Denis Sassou N'Guesso, who has ruled for more than 30 years. The Constitutional Court released final results Monday verifying his win with 60 percent of the vote.

The March 20 vote came five months after a constitutional referendum removed term and age limits that would have barred the 72-year-old from running.

The Ninjas were one of the main anti-government forces in the 1998-99 civil war. Led by renegade pastor Frederic Bitsangou, they signed 1999 cease-fire agreements, but took up arms in the early 2000s to demand a role in military and political decisions. A peace deal was signed in 2003.

The militia under Bitsangou was eventually disbanded and he joined the government.