BRAZZAVILLE, March 18 Security forces in Congo
Republic have killed around 15 rebel fighters during a military
operation in the central African oil producer's restive Pool
region, authorities said.
The area - a stronghold of the rebel leader Frederic
Bintsamou, better known as Pastor Ntumi - has been the scene of
regular operations by the police, gendarmes and army for nearly
In a statement released late on Friday, the security forces
said they had targeted a group operating around the village of
Renéville which they believed was headed by Pastor Ntumi's
military chief of staff, Daniel Bayidikila Malonga.
Malonga escaped the initial clash and was being pursued, the
statement said, adding that a stockpile of explosives, firearms
and ammunition was recovered in the wake of the fighting.
The government has blamed Pastor Ntumi, who led a militia
that fought President Denis Sassou Nguesso during and after a
1997 civil war, for deadly raids on police, military and local
government facilities in the capital Brazzaville last April.
The violence followed a contested presidential election in
which the opposition accused the government of fraud.
The unrest in the Pool region has forced thousands to flee
their homes and sparked allegations of abuse by government
troops from human rights groups.
Amnesty International accused the government of
intentionally bombing residential areas last April, killing at
least 30 people. The government has denied targeting civilians.
(Reporting by Philon Bondenga; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing
by Julia Glover)