Congolese security forces killed at least 40 armed militants on Monday as heavy gunfire rocked several districts of the capital Kinshasa, panicking residents.
The shooting erupted at the international airport and the main military headquarters, while police said armed youths took hostage several reporters from the state television station RTNC.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP that 16 attackers had been killed at the airport, 16 at the Tshatshi military base and eight more at the RTNC premises.
The motives of the attackers was not immediately clear.
“No civilian casualties have been reported and no victims in the security forces,” Mende said, adding that the assailants had yet to be identified.
In a televised message, Mende said the “aggression” was aimed at terrorizing Kinshasa citizens.
A television station employee said the hostage takers had claimed loyalty to pastor Joseph Mukungubila Mutombo, one of the candidates who challenged President Joseph Kabila in 2006 elections.
In an open letter dated December 5, Mukungubila expressed bitterness at the way the country was being run and showed his hate for neighboring Rwanda, which once invaded the DR Congo and is accused by the United Nations of backing rebels.
The pastor charged that Kabila was too close to Rwanda.
The US embassy said it had “received multiple reports of armed engagements and fighting around Kinshasa”, together with reports of numerous military and police checkpoints and barricades.
“The embassy urges all US citizens in Kinshasa to stay in place and not travel around the city until further notice,” it said in a statement on its website.
“There’s panic in the city, people are asking what is happening,” a local resident told AFP after the unrest began, adding that he had seen police and military officers deploy around the RTNC building and the nearby parliament premises.
Shooting was heard near the army HQ as well as the international airport at Ndjili, residents and a local journalist said. Ongoing gunfire was heard in the afternoon, according to a taxi driver.