Congolese security forces killed at least 14 members of separatist group Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) on Monday during clashes in the capital Kinshasa and southwestern city of Matadi, police said.
The clashes followed an attack by BDK members on Kinshasa’s main prison and demonstrations by other members against Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa, Matadi and the southwestern city of Boma, witnesses and security sources said.
A series of large-scale prison breaks across the DRC in the past few months has aggravated widespread insecurity since Kabila refused to step down from power after his mandate expired in December.
BDK leader and self-styled Ne Muanda Nsemi escaped from prison in May and had called on his supporters to rise up this Monday against Kabila, whom Nsemi accuses of being Rwandan – a common slur by the president’s opponents.
Police spokesman Pierrot Mwanamputu said in a statement that 12 BDK assailants in Kinshasa, armed with calibre-12 rifles and bladed weapons, were killed by “stray bullets” fired by security forces to disperse them.
Two others were killed in the southwestern town of Matadi, where three police officers were also injured, he added.
One security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said two army officers had also been killed in Kinshasa.
Violence has raged across much of Congo this year, killing hundreds and displacing millions and UN officials are concerned that violence is spreading out of control in Congo with Kabila’s complicity.
Critics have said he may use the insecurity as an excuse to delay elections that he pledged to hold this year.
A UN report last week found 251 killings took place in three months this year in the diamond-rich central Kasai region in violence that has involved child soldiers and witchcraft.
The number of people displaced in the DRC has more than doubled to 3.7 million since August 2016, the UN said in May.