Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

Congo Ninja leader dies, aged 76

Former Congolese prime minister
Bernard Kolelas' Ninjas fought the Cobras in Congo's civil war

A former leader of Congo's Ninja militias has died in Paris, aged 76.

Bernard Kolelas was an MP in Congo at the time of his death and was a popular politician in the capital, Brazzaville.

His Ninjas fought the Cobra militia loyal to President Denis Sassou-Nguesso who ousted the democratically elected leader Pascal Lissouba in 1997.

Mr Kolelas fled after Mr Sassou-Nguesso declared himself president, was found guilty of war crimes in his absence and was pardoned in 2005.

Mr Kolelas briefly served as served as prime minister during the civil war, before he and Mr Lissouba were removed from power.

He was also elected mayor of Brazzaville in the mid-1990s.

The Ninjas, who took their name from the cloaked Japanese warriors, were loyal to Mr Kolelas during various conflicts in that decade.

Their frontline leader - a renegade priest, known as Pasteur Ntumi - remains in his forest hideout in the southern Pool region.

He was offered a post as a junior minister responsible for peace and disarmament two years ago, but has refused to take it up because of worries over security.

Mr Sassou-Nguesso won presidential elections unopposed in March 2002, after his main rivals were barred from the contest - and he won another seven-year term this year.

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