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Saturday, August 29, 1998 Published at 20:58 GMT 21:58 UK

World: Africa

Congo rebels quit key port

A man suspected of being a rebel is thrown from a bridge. . .

Reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo say rebel forces have evacuated the strategic port city of Matadi on the Congo river, 350 km southwest of the capital, Kinshasa.

The reports say Angolan troops supporting the government of President Laurent Kabila entered the city without a fight.

[ image: . . . and is then shot at by government troops]
. . . and is then shot at by government troops
In Kinshasa, government officials say they have been carrying out mopping up operations against rebels who entered the city a week ago carrying out house to house searches looking for rebels that might be hiding.

After three days of fighting, there was sporadic shooting and shelling early on Saturday, but correspondents in the city said this had since died down and heavy weapons fire had ceased.

Outside forces

Mark Doyle in Brazzaville: "There are at least five foreign armies now involved"
The Congolese government says it already has proof that outside forces are fighting alongside the rebels, and paraded alleged prisoners of war in front of news cameras saying the men admitted to being Rwandans.

The government of President Laurent Kabila itself is supported by troops from Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The BBC's Mark Doyle says that if these countries continue to back him heavily, it is likely he will resist the attempt by the rebels to overthrow him in Kinshasa.

Rebel allies

[ image: The Congolese government says these POWs are Rwandan soldiers]
The Congolese government says these POWs are Rwandan soldiers
But in the east of Congo the rebels are holding a string of towns. There they are nearer to their African allies, Rwanda and Uganda.

Uganda has admitted its troops are operating deep inside the Congo, but says they are just protecting its national interests and are not involved directly in the conflict.

When the war started President Kabilia predicted that it would be long and hard.

With at least five foreign armies now involved in Congo and complex alliances building up between rebels and governments from several countries, our correspondent says this is becoming increasingly likely.

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