KINSHASA (Reuters) - A raid on a jail in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa on Thursday killed a police officer and an attacker, police and diplomatic sources told Reuters.
The attack by unknown assailants with firearms and machetes took place hours after the government said it would not hold a major independence day military parade on Friday because of recent insecurity across the Central African country.
In a statement, national police spokesman Colonel Pierre Mwanamputu said police killed one of the “bandits” and captured three others. Four officers were wounded and some prisoners managed to escape, he added, but did not say how many.
Police and diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a police officer was also killed in the clashes in Kinshasa‘a bustling Matonge neighbourhood.
Dozens of heavily-armed police and soldiers were deployed to the area and security was reinforced around the state television building several kilometres away.
“There was gunfire. I saw a woman wounded in her leg by a bullet,” said one witness who asked not to be named.
Thousands of inmates have escaped from jails this year in Congo, including about 4,000 from the capital Kinshasa’s main high-security prison last month in an attack blamed on a separatist sect from southeast Congo.
The repeated raids have underscored the country’s deteriorating security situation in the wake of President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his mandate in December.
Rising militia violence and a humanitarian crisis have unsettled Africa’s largest copper producer in recent months and raised fears of a return to the civil wars of the turn of the century that killed millions.
Fighting between government forces and a local militia in the central Kasai region has killed more than 3,300 people and forced 1.3 million to flee their homes since August.
Congo will not hold its annual independence day military parade on Friday because of security concerns, an adviser to Kabila told Reuters on Thursday morning.
Independence day parades have been held in each of the last three years to mark the end of Belgian colonial rule in 1960 and have been used to show off the central African country’s latest arms acquisitions.
Authorities ramped up security following the jail breaks, installing night-time checkpoints in Kinshasa’s business district of Gombe.
Reporting by Aaron Ross; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Andrew Roche and Mark Potter