Congo Holds More Than 50 People After Attack on Kabila Home

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrested more than 50 people following a Feb. 27 attack on the residence of President Joseph Kabila and a military camp in Kinshasa, the capital.

Seven of the assailants and one member of the presidential guard died in the attack, which was a “terrorist act” designed to “sow fear in people,” the information minister, Lambert Mende, told reporters today. “This was an act of criminality. It was not a coup d’etat.”

Kabila, 39, became Congo’s leader in 2001 when his father, Laurent Desire Kabila, was assassinated. The younger Kabila led the country in a transitional government from 2003 to 2006, when he was elected president. Congo, which is Africa’s largest tin- ore producer and has about 4 percent of the world’s copper and a third of its cobalt resources, is set to hold in November its second presidential election since the end of almost a decade of war.

The assailants, armed with machetes and guns and wearing amulets for protection, attacked the president’s residence at about 2:00 p.m. and were repelled by the presidential guard during a 20-minute gunfight, Mende said. Kabila wasn’t at home at the time and returned to be with his family just before the raid ended, he said.

Soon after that attack, another group of assailants opened fire at an arms depot at a nearby military camp and fled on motorcycles and in cars, Mende said. Congo’s security forces stopped the raiders from striking other targets, including the national television station, he said.

No Demands

The attackers made no political demands and there were no opposition members among those arrested, Mende said. The leader of the assailants was a former soldier with a defunct armed group, Mende said, without specifying which one. He was killed in the gunfight at the president’s house.

“The government has no proof to launch accusations against the opposition,” he said. “They are our partners as we go forward with elections.”