Gunbattles rocked the capital of the Congo Republic on Monday, shattering a relative calm that had followed President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s re-election in a disputed poll last month. Fighting erupted in the southern part of Brazzaville, with heavy fire in opposition bastions between troops and unidentified assailants sending thousands of residents fleeing, AFP news agency reported.
AFP reporters saw streams of people panicked by the gunfire heading north away from districts loyal to the opposition, which is contesting President Nguesso’s recent re-election. According to several witnesses, the crackle of automatic gunfire began after 2:00am local time (0100 GMT) in Makelekele and Mayana districts, and continued without stop until dawn. Several explosions were heard and two police stations reportedly torched in the restive run-down districts, strongholds of the opposition.
Following the violence, hundreds of police and troops, some in armoured vehicles, fanned out across the city’s southern areas and threw up roadblocks on the main road between the south and the city centre. The reason for the clashes was not immediately clear, but government spokesman Thierry Moungalla told Reuters news agency that former members of a militia that fought President Nguesso in a 1997 civil war were behind the violence.
Reuters reported that young opposition supporters, chanting “Sassou, leave!”, also erected barricades near the main roundabout in Makelekele and set fire to the local mayor’s office and police headquarters.