- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (AP) - Former militiamen attacked a military position and burned police stations in the Republic of Congo’s capital early Monday, the government said.

Police forces exchanged fire with the attackers, and were restoring order, the government said in a statement as heavy gunfire subsided.

Former members of the militia, known by the name the Ninjas Nsiloulou, attacked a military position in the Mayanga neighborhood of Brazzaville, the government said. Police stations in Djoue, Makelekele, Lemina and Kinsoundi neighborhoods, along with the mayor’s office in Makelekele were set on fire, it said.

Residents were forced from their homes, the government said. The fighting seemed to be contained to only certain areas of the capital, though residents spilled into other parts. The government urged everyone to remain peaceful and calm. The statement did not give further details.

Monday’s fighting comes weeks after the re-election of longtime President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, who has ruled for more than 30 years. 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 from running.

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 Cabinet minister.

Anti-government protesters clashed with security forces in the run-up to the October referendum, though the later election period was calm.

The government said it was investigating if the violence was election-related, and condemned any candidates who may have called for unrest.


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