7 dead in Congo police clashes with religious group

Kinshasa, Congo - At least seven people were killed and a dozen wounded during weekend clashes between the police and members of a religious movement in a town 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of the capital, according to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo.

In a statement, the U.N. peacekeepers deplored the violence

between security forces and followers of Bundu Dia Kongo, a political and religious movement calling for the integration of traditional African beliefs into modern life. The statement cited official sources in determining the toll of seven civilians killed and a dozen wounded.

«The violence will not allow us to solve these problems, but rather will aggravate them,» said Alan Doss, the special representative of the U.N. secretary general in Congo.

Nsemi Ne Mwanda, the spiritual head of the movement based in Luozi, accused police and the army of having bombed his temples.

«They bombed my followers with heavy artillery and killed at least 30. They threw their bodies in the river,» said Ne Mwanda.

Rauss Chalwe, the police inspector of the Bas-Congo district denied that police had attacked first.

The clashes began last week in Luozi when the followers began attacking members of other religious groups, he said. They stoned to death one policeman, whose body they then mutilated and in response, police reinforcements were sent from the capital to Luozo.

A local leader of another religious group, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said the police descended on the headquarters of the Bundu Dia Kongo, firing on the building, he said.

For several years, followers of this sect have routinely clashed with police in Bas-Congo. In February one year ago, more than 100 members of the group were killed in a confrontation with security forces.