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Gunfire Is Heard After Uprising in Congo

June 11, 2004|From Associated Press

KINSHASA, Congo — Officers with Congo's security forces briefly commandeered state radio and TV here early today, and government ministers said a bloodless coup attempt had failed.

But heavy gunfire broke out later in the city center and near the residence of President Joseph Kabila, residents said.

Before the reports of gunfire, Foreign Minister Antoine Ghonda had blamed an "isolated movement" within the security forces and said the postwar power-sharing government led by Kabila remained in charge.

"The situation is completely under control," Information Minister Vitale Kamerhe said shortly before daybreak. At that time, officers behind the attempt had retreated to a military base in Kinshasa, the capital, without violence, officials said.

The apparent coup attempt began when at least one officer briefly appeared on state radio and TV to declare that security forces were "neutralizing" Kabila's transitional government. The rebel officers cut electricity in the city.

Most of Kinshasa appeared to sleep through the initial event. State television was off the air.

Kamerhe indicated that the leader of the attempt, Maj. Eric Lenge, remained at the military base.

Kabila's transitional government was created in 2003 with representatives of the previous government, ex-rebels and opposition figures after a devastating 1998-2002 war.

In March, a few hundred soldiers attacked several military installations in the capital. They were defeated, and it was unclear whether the incident was a coup attempt or a more limited mutiny.

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