Gunfire, explosions heard in Congo capital

Saturday, November 11th 2006, 7:32 am
By: News On 6

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) _ Sporadic gunfire and explosions echoed through Congo's capital on Saturday as fighting broke out between troops loyal to President Joseph Kabila and his ex-rebel leader opponent in a heated runoff election, witnesses and U.N. peacekeepers said.

Troubles began when police fired in the air to disperse protesters who burned tires in the streets around the residence of Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is challenging Kabila in the poll, witnesses said.

A contingent of Uruguayan peacekeepers told an Associated Press reporter behind sandbagged positions nearby that fighting had erupted between the two sides, whose forces clashed in August in three days of gunbattles in Kinshasa that left at least 23 people dead. The peacekeepers declined to be named, saying they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Half a dozen heavy explosions were heard, and the peacekeepers said it was mortar-fire. But it was not clear where it was coming from or where the rounds had exploded. No smoke could be seen.

The latest results released Friday by the electoral commission are being challenged by Bemba supporters. With nearly two-thirds of the vote counted, Kabila leads with about 61 percent of the vote, compared to 39 percent for Bemba.

Hundreds of Bemba supporters gathered around Bemba's residence.

``We voted for Bemba, not Kabila. Kabila must go!'' shouted Jean-Pierre Michel, 43-year-old unemployed resident of the capital who stood near Bemba's house Saturday as gunshots rang out.