(Adds details, background)
By Aaron Ross
KINSHASA Feb 3 Police in southwestern
Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday killed at least eight
members of a separatist religious sect, local activists said,
escalating tensions in a normally peaceful part of a
The police opened fire on members of Bundu dia Kongo (BDK)
as they approached the morgue in the town of Kimpese to recover
the bodies of fellow members killed in protests last month,
Jonas Lukoki, the provincial coordinator of the New Civil
Society, told Reuters.
"There were 12 deaths, including three children," Lukoki
said. Another local activist in Kimpese said that the police had
killed at least eight BDK members. Both activists said the
demonstrators were unarmed.
A police spokesman told Reuters that several people had been
killed when BDK members clashed with the police in Kimpese but
did not have further details.
Analysts say President Joseph Kabila's failure to step down
when his constitutional mandate expired in December has led to a
surge in activity from multiple armed groups, often with deadly
Armed clashes used to be rare in western Congo, unlike the
east, where dozens of rebel groups and militia operate. But
violence has increased there in recent months, including clashes
in December between another religious sect and security forces
in the northwest that killed at least 18 people.
BDK was founded by self-proclaimed prophet Ne Muanda Nsemi
in the 1980s. It seeks to revive the pre-colonial Kongo kingdom,
which flourished for centuries around the mouth of the Congo
river at central Africa's Atlantic coast.
Security forces killed more than 300 of its members and
bystanders in crackdowns on sometimes violent protests in 2007
and 2008, rights groups say. It claims to have thousands of
supporters, but this number hasn't been verified.
The government said at the time it needed to assert its
authority and went on to ban BDK in March 2008, but the group
continues to command a significant following in the region.
(Editing by Tim Cocks, Larry King)