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300 dead in DRC attacks blamed on 'prophet'

22 May 2014, 21:21

Kinshasa - More than 300 people, mostly civilians, were killed in attacks blamed on a self-proclaimed "prophet" in the Democratic Republic of Congo in December, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights said on Thursday.

The Congolese government has previously denied that any citizens were killed in the violence on 30 December, which it blames on pastor and former presidential candidate Joseph Mukungubila Mutombo, who is known by his followers as "the Eternal Prophet".

"Some 250" civilians and six soldiers died in the Katanga province in the south-east of the country, and another 71 civilians were killed in Kinshasa, said Sylvain Lumu, general-secretary of the League of Electors, a local group who helped compile the report.

"The toll is still provisional because there were people, according to some witnesses... who were thrown in the Katanga river. There are [also] people that are in mass graves," he said.

The government has previously denied there were any civilian deaths in the coordinated attacks across several cities on 30 December.

It put the toll at "103 dead, including 95 terrorists and eight soldiers".

The attacks started with armed youths believed to be loyal to Mukungubila storming the state television station, the international airport and the military headquarters.

As well as the capital, attacks took place in Lubumbashi and Kolwezi in the Katanga region of the southeast, and Kindu in the eastern region of Maniema.

Interpol arrest warrant

Mukungubila, who challenged President Joseph Kabila in 2006 elections, is now in exile in South Africa.

In an open letter dated 5 December, Mukungubila expressed bitterness at the way the country was being run. He showed his hate for neighbouring Rwanda, which once invaded the DR Congo and is accused by the United Nations of backing rebels, and charged Kabila was too close to Rwanda.

Mukungubila and Kabila are both from the resource-rich southeastern state of Katanga, which the president was visiting at the time of the attacks.

On 15 May, South Africa detained Mukungubila for several hours on a Interpol arrest warrant "following a complaint by the Congolese government", the pastor's lawyer told AFP.

He is due to appear before a court in South Africa accused of murder and several other charges on 15 July.

"We don't have the impression that the attackers had any other objective - in such small numbers, with such weak weaponry - but to seek... to spread panic and terror on the eve of the New Year's festivities," government spokesperson Lambert Mende said at the time.



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