KINSHASA Democratic Republic of Congo's army on Friday killed over 50 members of the Kamwina Nsapu militia in the centre of the country who were seeking to avenge the death of their leader, an opposition politician and an activist from the area said.
Hundreds have died and tens of thousands have been uprooted in central Congo in recent months in battles between security forces and the militia, whose leader Kamwina Nsapu died last August.
Analysts say militia violence in Congo, a tinderbox of conflicts linked to land, ethnicity and mineral resources, has been exacerbated by President Joseph Kabila's failure to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in December.
Clashes erupted early Friday morning in the town of Tshimbulu in Kasai-Central province, said Hyppolite Biduaya Bulanda, an opposition politician in the provincial capital of Kananga. He told Reuters that army soldiers had shot dead 58 militia.
A local activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the militia were killed after they attacked an army post armed with knives and batons. He put the death toll at 56.
The provincial governor, army spokesman and national government spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Kamwina Nsapu, a traditional chief, was killed in a clash with police last August after having vowed to rid Kasai-Central of all state security forces, accusing them of abusing the local population.
(Reporting By Aaron Ross; Editing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Ralph Boulton)