Heavy gunfire sounded in Congo's capital Thursday around the home of presidential runner-up Jean-Pierre Bemba, witnesses said.
"We've been hearing shooting from heavy arms coming from the area of Jean-Pierre Bemba's residence," office worker Emery Makumeno said by phone from a nearby building. Makumeno and an AP photographer in the area said the shooting had been going on for about an hour.
Soldiers deployed throughout the city and people could be seen fleeing in vehicles and on foot. It was unclear whether the gunfire was coming from government soldiers, civilians or members of Bemba's armed guard.
Bemba's guard has refused to disband as promised as part of a deal with the government of President Joseph Kabila. It was the first fighting in the capital since Kabila was installed as the Central African country's first freely elected president in decades late last year.
Bemba, who came in second, initially rejected the election results and his militia took to the streets, clashing with Kabila's security forces. At least two dozen civilians were killed. He gave up his challenge after Congo's Supreme Court rejected his claims of an unfair vote.
Bemba, an ex-warlord who was recently elected senator, was allowed keep his personal army - numbering in the thousands - until this month. Last week, his personal guard was expected to register at an army base, where they were to begin their integration into the Congolese security force. But his militia ignored the deadline, and a spokesman said Bemba's security was still uncertain, reports AP.
Armed men wearing uniforms that designated them as Bemba's fighters could be seen deployed around his residence, Makumeno said. He said they were holding guns ready, apparently ready to shoot out onto the street - a wide boulevard that was the site of earlier brawls.
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