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European Union Condemns Congo Bloodshed

VOA News - March 27, 2007

European Union ambassadors have expressed their indignation at two days of machine-gun and mortar battles between the army and loyalists of former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital. From Kinshasa, Franz Wild reports for VOA.

Black smoke rise in the air, at the city of Kinshasa, Congo, in this photo taken from Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring, Republic of Congo, 23 Mar 2007
Black smoke rises in the air, at the city of Kinshasa, Congo, in this photo taken from Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring, Republic of Congo, 23 Mar 2007
Last week's shoot-out left 200 to 600 victims, German Ambassador Karl-Albrecht Wokalek told journalists. He would not specify how many of these were dead.

Reading a joint statement from EU ambassadors, Wokalek said the 500 fighters on either side used an inappropriate amount of force. He said the EU ambassadors condemn the numerous cases of looting and rape committed by the servicemen from both camps, and request the Congolese authorities call the security forces to restraint and discipline. He said, the perpetrators of crimes and lootings should be tried.

The EU ambassadors further condemned looting at the Italian Embassy and damage to the Spanish and Greek embassies that were hit by mortars.

The clashes broke out when Bemba ignored a March 15 ultimatum to disarm his personal guard. He fled to the South African Embassy late Thursday, when an arrest warrant was issued against him. He is wanted for high treason, for maintaining a personal militia.

Last year, after losing Congo's first democratic elections in 40 years, Bemba said he would lead the opposition as a member of the senate. The EU ambassadors said democratic space must now be protected. Congo is recovering from a 1998 to 2003 civil war that killed four million people.

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