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Eyewitnesses said they had heard gunfire for about an hour around the president's hilltop home in Kinshasa, known as the Marble Palace and usually heavily guarded by soldiers and a tank.
A source close to Mr Kabila said: "The president took two bullets, one in the back, another in the leg."
Later, a heavily guarded helicopter was seen landing at one of Kinshasa's main hospitals.
There are rumours that the president may already be dead, and further speculation that the shooting may be part of a coup attempt against the president.
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said Mr Kabila was apparently shot by a guard during a meeting with army generals whom he had dismissed.
"From three sources, I have [heard] that Kabila has most likely been shot to death," he said.
But Congo officials insisted the president was only wounded and survived the attack.
There has been growing discontent within the army for the last year. At least two factions - one led by Mr Kabila's son Joseph - are jostling for control, with no clear central authority in command.
DR Congo is also fighting a six-nation war in which the Kinshasa government, backed by Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, is fighting a rebellion backed by Uganda and Rwanda.
The conflict has so far claimed more than a million lives.
The Chief of Staff, Eddy Kapend, has appeared on television to order troops to block the main airport serving Kinshasa and to close the river border with neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville.
He read out a message on state television urging citizens to be calm, but making no reference to the shooting.
"The Congolese people need your serenity and your discipline," he said.
Many Kinshasa residents hurried home after the broadcast, and the streets quickly emptied.
The United Nations spokesman in Kinshasa said Congolese television had broadcast patriotic music in place of the evening news bulletin.
DR Congo has been in turmoil since 1996 when Rwandan-backed rebels launched their war against the ailing President Mobutu Sese Seko.
That rebellion led to President Kabila's installation in 1997 - but since 1998 he has himself been facing a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda.
There was no government confirmation of Laurent Kabila's death until almost two days later.
The president's son, Joseph Kabila, took over almost immediately.
His appointment was initially unpopular, but within a year peace talks re-started and all sides agreed to a UN-monitored ceasefire.
A transitional government took over in 2003, largely ending a civil war which had claimed 2.5 million lives.
Eyewitness accounts of the shooting told how a bodyguard opened fire on the president during an argument. The bodyguard himself was reportedly shot dead.
A government investigation concluded that the murder had been planned as part of an international plot to topple the president.
A year after the shooting, 80 people were tried for plotting the murder.
The trial was heavily criticised by human rights groups. It ended with the conviction of 26 of the defendants, including Army Chief of Staff Eddy Kapend.
All were sentenced to death, with no right to appeal.
In November 2005 the parliament approved an amnesty for crimes from 1996 to 2003 as part of the transition from civil war to democratic elections in 2006.
The amnesty covered those convicted of assassinating the president.
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