Thursday, October 26, 2006

D.R. CONGO LEADER'S ALLY SEIZED !

President Kabila's ally Nzanga Mobutu was seized in his hometown. A key ally of DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila has been seized ahead of Sunday's run-off presidential election, according to UN sources. Nzanga Mobutu, son of late Congolese ruler Mobutu Sese Seko, was campaigning on behalf of President Kabila in Gbadolite, in the north of the country. Supporters of rival candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba seized him at a radio station, the sources said. It comes after rioting broke out at a prison in the capital Kinshasa. The brother of Mr Mobutu told AFP news agency that shots were fired when Nzanga Mobutu went to the Radio Liberte offices in Gbadolite.

Gbadolite is the Mobutu family's home town but Mr Bemba has strong support there. The apparent hostage-taking comes just hours after rioting broke out at the main prison in Kinshasa. The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman says the situation is quiet after several hours of gunfire.

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Reports of casualties vary. Some inmates have said three people were killed, others said five, says our correspondent. The head of police told him that nine people were injured but no-one was killed. The riot started after relatives were stopped from bringing food to prisoners after a breakout earlier in the week. The escapees were convicted of killing former President Laurent Kabila.

Joseph Kabila, his son, faces former rebel leader Mr Bemba in Sunday's presidential run-off. The 14 soldiers who escaped on Monday had been sentenced to death for their role in the 2001 assassination. They were among scores of people convicted for Laurent Kabila's death. Our correspondent says the event around the prison on Thursday afternoon looked spontaneous. But he says those accused of Mr Kabila's murder expected to be freed before the election as part of an amnesty but the Supreme Court ruled against it. Shortly after the riot began he and another reporter were detained by the authorities. They were released several hours later. Tensions are high in DR Congo ahead of Sunday's presidential vote because the two candidates were belligerents in the civil war and both still have loyal armed forces.

The second round will conclude the country's first fully democratic polls since independence in 1960.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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