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Monday, 26 August, 2002, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Ninjas attack Congo train
Petrol seller on Brazzaville streets
The train route is vital for petrol supplies in the capital

A train has been attacked and derailed in the southern Pool region of the Republic of Congo, injuring 31, with the number of dead as yet unknown.

The government have blamed the attack on so called Ninja rebels, a militia group active during Congo's civil wars of 1997 and 1998, who style themselves on the ancient Japanese warriors.

The derailment occurred when a railway bridge in the town of Loulombo, some 200 km west of the capital, Brazzaville, was blown up.

Persistent clashes between Ninjas and the Congolese army in the Pool region are proving to be a serious obstacle to peace in the country.

Attack

The cargo train, which was carrying medical supplies and much needed petrol to the capital, was attacked on Saturday evening, but the information was not made public until late Sunday night.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso
The attack is a blow to President Sassou
The Pool region has been the scene of sporadic fighting between suspected Ninjas and government forces since April this year, but the Ninjas have consistently denied responsibility for several attacks on the railway line in recent months.

Access to the area has been denied to international aid agencies, causing concern over the condition of an estimated 60,000 internally displaced people in the region.

Blow

This is the third time the strategic railway link between Congo's oil hub of Pointe-Noir and the capital Brazzaville has been attacked since April.

The disruption has cause a serious shortage of petrol, in what is the currently the third largest producer of crude oil in Africa.

Taxi drivers and motorists in the capital are being forced to queue overnight outside petrol stations in order to buy fuel at vastly inflated prices.

This latest attack is a blow to newly inaugurated President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who is keen to show that Congo Brazzaville has emerged from a decade of civil wars into a state of peace and stability, and attract much needed foreign investment to rebuild the country.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Pascale Harter reporting for Focus on Africa
"The government has still not disclosed the number of lives claimed in the incident"
See also:

02 Apr 02 | Africa
27 May 02 | Africa
10 Apr 02 | Africa
11 Aug 00 | Africa
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