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Congo security forces fatally shoot 2 amid violent anti-govt protests

Congo security forces fatally shoot 2 amid violent anti-govt protests

Kabila was required by the constitution to step down in December previous year when his mandate expired but an election to replace him has been repeatedly delayed and is now scheduled for December 2018. The UN says dozens of people have been killed during anti-government protests over the past year.

Despite appeals notably from the United Nations to respect people's right to protest, troops fired tear gas into churches and bullets in the air to break up gatherings at Catholic masses, in one case arresting 12 altar boys leading a protest in Kinshasa.

About 50 people were arrested in Kinshasa and seven people were hurt by gunfire, Reuters quoted human rights activist Georges Kapiamba as saying.

Anaclet Tshimbalanga, a rights activist in central Congo's Kasai region, confirmed that security forces had shot dead a demonstrator in Kananga.

Many people joined anti-government rallies in a bid to force the country's President Joseph Kabila to resign and publicly announce that he will not seek a third term in office and promise not to change constitution. He said the other two deaths were being investigated.

At the Notre-Dame of Congo Cathedral in Gombe, in north Kinshasa, security forces fired tear gas as opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi arrived, AFP news agency reported.

At another church in the working-class district of Barumbu, a few dozen police officers used teargas and stun grenades against some 300 churchgoers, who waved bibles and sang religious songs as they tried to march, a Reuters witness said.

The country's Minister of Telecommunications ordered that Internet access and text messaging in Congo be cut off starting from 17:00 GMT on Saturday "for safety reasons".

Opposition parties, civil society, youth movements and about 150 Catholic churches support peaceful demonstrations.

Some 40 per cent of Congo's population is Roman Catholic and the Church enjoys rare credibility with the public, even though its leadership has not formally backed the protests.

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