Source Pravda.Ru

Gunfire reported in Republic of Congo neighborhood, violence blamed on ex-rebels

Sporadic volleys of automatic gunfire echoed briefly through a southern suburb of Republic of Congo's capital on Thursday in violence authorities blamed on ex-rebels. No casualties were reported.

Gunfire was first heard in the afternoon in the Bacongo neighborhood, where former rebels loyal to Pastor Frederic Bitsangou have their political headquarters. The rebels pledged to disarm after a March 2003 peace accord.

Telephone lines were briefly cut and state television went off the air, but both were back on several hours later. It was not immediately known whether the shutdowns were related to the violence.

State radio blamed the incident in Bacongo on "ex-combatants who want to block the peace process." It said security forces had stepped in to end the violence, but gave no other details.

Authorities refused to comment, but witnesses said there had been a minor dispute between police and Bitsangou's so-called Ninja rebels.

As night fell, security forces blocked cars from entering and leaving the Bacongo neighborhood.

Ninja rebels took up arms in the late 1990s, first agreeing to a 1999 cease-fire that ended two years of fierce fighting. After President Denis Sassou-Nguesso won a 2002 presidential race that international observers deemed fair, the rebels took up arms again, but fighting ended with a new peace deal in March 2003, AP reported. V.A.

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