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Congo Government Says Rebel Leader Captured

  • David Lewis

The Congolese government says it has captured the commander of a group of armed men who temporarily seized a southern Congolese mining town last week. The government also says an estimated three-thousand civilians who fled the fighting in the town are stranded on an island in Zambian waters.

Nearly a week after a mysterious group of armed men attacked and captured the southern Congolese mining town of Kilwa, a provincial vice governor says loyalist forces have captured the rebel leader.

Chikez Diemu, vice governor of Katanga, says soldiers loyal to Kinshasa seized Commander Alain Mukwali and two of his lieutenants, and would take them to the provincial capital, Lubumbashi, on Wednesday.

Mr. Diemu says Commander Mukwali led the hundred or so fighters who seized the mining town last week, and was captured after being injured in the arm during fighting with government forces.

Commander Mukwali is a local leader of the Mai Mai militias, fighters who were involved in Congo's five-year war that officially ended last year, after three-million people were killed.

But the gunmen also are thought to include Angolan-based Portuguese-speaking rebels, seeking independence for the mineral rich province of Katanga.

Last week's attack led an international company running a nearby copper and silver mine to suspend its operations and evacuate some staff.

Government forces retook control of the town late Friday, killing 30 rebels. The Australian company that ran the mine, Anvil, said Monday it had sent staff back to the mine over the weekend to resume operations.

Meanwhile, one of Congo's neighbors, Zambia, announced Monday it was struggling to look after up to three-thousand civilians who fled the fighting to Kilwa Island, which is officially in Zambian waters, but situated just seven kilometers from the Congolese town.

Mr. Diemu says he expects the refugees to return as soon as they have transportation.