Thursday, 14 December, 2017

Christian Sect Attacks Congo Prison, Frees Leader, 50 More

Prisoners in the yard at Makala prison which is in the centre of Kinshasa DR Congo's capital Prisoners in the yard at Makala prison which is in the centre of Kinshasa DR Congo's capitalMore
Ben Pena | 19 May, 2017, 06:22

Armed militia members belonging to a religious-political sect attacked a prison in the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, freeing their self-styled prophet leader and at least 50 other inmates, the government said.

It is reported that several inmates were killed during the prison raid on Wednesday, but no official figure has been released in that regard.

Justice minister Alexis Thambwe told a local radio station that, aside from Nsemi, the prison's most prominent prisoners, including political opposition leaders and soldiers convicted in the assassination of former president Laurent Kabila, had not escaped.

Authorities believe that the attack was masterminded and carried by Nsemi followers.

"Several risky prisoners and perpetrators of vicious crimes have escaped".

Local residents told AFP there were "prolonged exchanges of fire".

The dramatic assault took place as DR Congo marks 20 years since the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country - which was then known as Zaire - with an iron fist for more than three decades.

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Nsemi has a strong following in southwestern Congo and wants to revive the Kongo kingdom, which flourished for centuries around the mouth of the Congo River.

According to one escaped prisoner, the operation began "at around 4:00 am" (0300 GMT) with around 100 prisoners managing to flee in an account corroborated by local residents.

It is estimated that around 4,000 or half of the facility's population escaped, said a prisoner who witnessed the incident.

Mr Nsemi leads the Bundu dia Kongo movement, which is campaigning to restore a monarchy in parts of DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Angola and Gabon.

A city official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the women's section was empty.

The Belgian colonial-era Makala prison has capacity for 3,000 detainees.

Kabila rose to power in 2001 after his father was assassinated. Kabila should have stepped down in December under a constitutionally mandated two-term limit.

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