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Heavy, sporadic gunfire heard in Republic of Congo capital

04 April 2016, 15:38

Brazzaville (AP) — Heavy gunfire was heard in Republic of Congo's capital early Monday, with a government official saying police were battling militia fighters.

The gunfire tapered off at times and was contained in the southern Bacongo and Makelekele neighborhoods of Brazzaville.

Police are fighting with militiamen known as the Ninjas, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the media on the matter. Authorities are monitoring the situation, he said.

The Ninjas were one of the main anti-government forces in the 1998-99 civil war. Led by renegade pastor Frederic Bitsangou, they signed 1999 cease-fire agreements, but took up arms again in the early 2000s to demand a role in military and political decisions. A peace deal was signed in 2003 between the militia and government.

The militia under Bitsangou was eventually disbanded and he was later brought into the government as a minister.

Monday's fighting comes weeks after the re-election of longtime President Denis Sassou N'Guesso. He has ruled the Central African country since 1979, though he was out of power for five years beginning in 1992 after losing the first multi-party vote.

The March 20 vote that saw him back in office came five months after a constitutional referendum removed term and age limits that would have barred the 72-year-old leader from running.

The run-up to the October referendum featured clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces, though the later election period was calm.

Republic of Congo is located in central Africa next to the much larger nation of Congo.

- AP

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