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DRC Government Proclaims Victory Over Armed Attackers

Officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo say government troops have defeated armed attackers at three locations around the capital, killing close to 40 gunmen and capturing several more.

Witnesses say the attacks were staged by youthful gunmen claiming allegiance to an evangelical Christian prophet opposed to the rule of President Joseph Kabila. Fighting was also reported in Congo's second largest city, Lubumbashi, home of the religious leader known as Gideon Mukungubila.

No civilians or security forces were reported killed in the attacks at the international airport, state television station and the main military base in Kinshasa.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende says the attacks appeared to have no purpose except to disrupt this week's New Year's celebrations.

"The government calls on the people of Kinshasa, victims of this terrorist aggression - since we do not have the impression that the assailants had any other objective, so few in numbers, armed so poorly, .. to want to achieve anything other than to sow panic and terror on the eve of the new year festivities which have such a great importance in our culture."

He urged residents to go about their business normally rather than give in to the threat.

A VOA reporter in Kinshasa says sporadic gunfire continued at mid-day and most residents were remaining in their homes. The reporter says soldiers and police are maintaining checkpoints throughout the city.

Mende says about 30 gunmen were involved in the attack on the radio and television center, where transmission was temporarily shut down.

Viewers say two of the gunmen appeared on television before the shutdown to deliver a message critical of President Kabila. The message said Gideon Mukungubila had come to free the Congolese people from the slavery imposed on them by "the Rwandan."

"The Rwandan" is sometimes used as a nickname for Mr. Kabila, who comes from eastern Congo near Rwanda. His father, Laurent Kabila, led a militia in the region before seizing power in Kinshasa in a 1997 coup.

The younger Mr. Kabila was returned to power in 2011 elections in which Mukungubila was a candidate.

Mende says about 20 gunmen were involved in the attack on the military base and that 16 of them were killed. A similar number attacked the international airport in nearby N'Djili, temporarily shutting it down.

The U.S. embassy in Kinshasa advised U.S. citizens to avoid areas where crowds have gathered. It said there were reports the international airport was closed.

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