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Saturday, August 15, 1998 Published at 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK

World: Africa

Foreigners evacuate Congo

Government troops head for the frontline

Hundreds of foreigners are being evacuated from the Democratic Republic of Congo as the two-week old revolt against President Laurent Kabila continues.

Rebel forces are believed to be about 200km from the capital, Kinshasa.

David Bamford: rebel advance could cause riots
The United States has closed down its embassy in Kinshasa, and flown its remaining officials out of the country, according to the US State Department.

France has organised a huge evacuation operation. An advance force of French troops was sent to Brazzaville, across the river from Kinshasa, to supervise the operation.

Two American amphibious assault ships are also heading towards the area with 1,200 Marines on board.

A contingent of 190 British Royal Marine commandos is also on the way. However, Britain - as well as Belgium and Portugal - have asked Washington and Paris to take the lead in getting their nationals out.

Dr Vincent Magombe of Africa Inform International on evidence of Rwandan involvement
The Belgian airline, Sabena, has announced that it has suspended all flights to Kinshasa on safety grounds.

BBC Africa specialist David Bamford says this is the fourth time in recent years that western countries have carried out a mass evacuation from Kinshasa.

They have had previous experience rescuing foreigners during the army mutinies in the final years of the late President Mobutu, and in the turmoil last year when President Laurent Kabila came to power.

Pro-government demonstrations in the capital

The mood in the capital is said to be fiercely nationalistic.

[ image: Government supporters aim to defy the rebels]
Government supporters aim to defy the rebels
Thousands of demonstrators have marched down the main boulevard of the capital, chanting pro-government slogans

Electricity has been restored to the capital after a two-day blackout, which followed the capture by the rebels of a hydro-electric dam at Inga, 250km from the capital.

However, the rebels say they have made other gains, including Matadi airport, although this has not been independently confirmed.

Rebel advances

According to the Congolese Government, the rebellion by ethnic Congolese Tutsis is backed by an invasion force of the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan army.

But Rwanda has denied the allegations.

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