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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Rebels 'repelled' from Congo capital
Tank in Brazzaville
This is the first attack on Brazzaville for years
Several hours of fighting on Friday morning in Brazzaville has left eight "Ninja" militiamen and five civilians dead, reports the French news agency, AFP.

The Congolese army says it has now repelled the attack and captured 100 attackers, a military source told AFP.


Many of the Ninjas were killed and the others have fled

Colonel Obargui
Army spokesman
The "Ninjas" had refused to sign a peace deal in 1999 with other rebel groups and the government which ended several years of civil war in Congo Brazzaville.

Residents of the western suburbs of the Congolese capital near the airport and a military base awoke to the sound of gunfire and shelling, prompting hundreds to flee for other areas of the city.

The attack happened while President Denis Sassou Nguesso had not yet returned from Rome, where he attended the World Food Summit.

Half-naked

Information Minister Francois Ibovi told the BBC that the fighting had broken out early on Friday between the army and an armed group near Brazzaville's airport but that the situation was now under control.

"They have been pushed back by the army. Many of the Ninjas were killed and the others have fled," army spokesman Colonel Jean-Robert Obargui told Reuters news agency.

"The Ninjas went into many houses and shot people," Colonel Obargui said, without giving details of how many people had been killed and wounded.

A two-year old baby girl was killed in the crossfire, said Roger Owoko, the head of a local human rights organisation.

Another woman told Mr Owoko that her mother had been shot dead.

Dreadlocks

The fleeing people described the attackers as members of a renegade militia group which calls itself the Ninja, loyal to Frederic Bitsangou, also known as Reverend Ntumi.

They were half-naked and dreadlocked, say the displaced people.

Denis Sassou-Nguesso
The president has not yet returned to Congo

Two local members of the International Committee of the Red Cross have been wounded, as have some soldiers, say United Nations staff.

Tanks and soldiers are patrolling several parts of the city, says an international humanitarian organisation, the International Rescue Committee.

Staff there have seen soldiers commandeer civilian vehicles.

Since April, the Congolese army and its Angolan military allies have been fighting the "Ninjas" in the Pool region which surrounds Brazzaville but until now, the city had remained untouched.

See also:

30 May 02 | Africa
27 May 02 | Africa
16 May 02 | Africa
27 Mar 02 | Country profiles
22 Feb 02 | Africa
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