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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Calm returns after Congo panic
Weapons collected under Congo's disarmament programme
Rebels have handed over many weapons since 1999
Calm is returning to Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, after firing during a military operation on Tuesday sent tens of thousands fleeing the city.

The authorities are encouraging residents to return home, and eyewitnesses say many are coming back on army trucks.

Officials say that Tuesday's military operation was aimed at finding illegal weapons in southern parts of Brazzaville.

The bursts of gunfire heard by residents were only warning shots and no major clash occurred, the army says.

BBC correspondent Mark Dummett said the southern part of the city has traditionally been opposed to President Denis Sassou-Nguesso.

Train attack

The army operation follows a series of clashes between government troops and rebel fighters in the last ten days.

An attack on a train killed two people and wounded twelve in the western Pool region last week, forcing the army to reinforce its positions.

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso
Sassou-Nguesso wants all militias disarmed
The government blamed the attack on so-called "Ninja" militiamen.

The Ninjas belong to a rebel group that refused to sign the 1999 peace agreement - which put an end to several years of brutal civil war in Congo.

Since 1999, many former militiamen have handed over their guns and have been given civilian jobs.

But last month the government accused the Ninja leader in the Pool region, Reverend Frederik Bitsangou, of opposing the demobilisation of his men.

Reverend Bitsangou and his men, who live in the bush, deny any involvement in the attack on the train - the worst violence since the 1999 peace agreement.

See also:

10 Apr 02 | Africa
Thousands flee Congo capital
02 Apr 02 | Africa
Deadly attack on Congo train
10 Mar 02 | Africa
One-man race in Congo poll
10 Mar 02 | Africa
Congo poll lacks key candidate
22 Feb 02 | Africa
Timeline: Republic of Congo
27 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Republic of Congo
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