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Two Killed in Anti-government Protest in Eastern Congo, Police Say

FILE - Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers launch missiles during a military operation against ADF rebels outside the town of Beni, in North Kivu province, Jan. 18, 2014.

A civilian and a police officer were killed Wednesday in clashes in northeast Congo during a protest of the government’s failure to stop massacres of civilians by rebel groups, according to police.

The protests in the town of Beni added to tensions in Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of an election set for November in which the opposition has called for President Joseph Kabila to step down after his allotted two terms.

Crowds jeered Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo and two ministers Tuesday when they came to assess security.

On Wednesday, residents of Beni and surrounding towns again chanted against the government and army outside the mayor's office, voicing frustration in a region once considered a political stronghold for the government.

FILE - Angry residents take to the streets to protest violence against civilians in Goma, Congo, Aug. 2, 2013.
FILE - Angry residents take to the streets to protest violence against civilians in Goma, Congo, Aug. 2, 2013.

In the latest example of rebel violence, around 50 people were killed by suspected Ugandan rebels on the outskirts of Beni on Saturday.

More than 700 people have died in similar attacks on civilians since 2014.

The government blames the attacks on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group of a few hundred fighters that has operated in eastern Congo since the 1990s.

U.N. experts and analysts say other armed groups, including Congolese soldiers, are responsible for attacks on civilians and Kabila's opponents have seized on the massacres as evidence of government incompetence.

The government says the army is rooting out the ADF, but its guerrilla tactics make it difficult to counter.

National police spokesman Pierre Mwanamputu said five people were injured Wednesday in the protests, aside from those killed. Police made 79 arrests.

Teddy Kataliko, president of the Civil Society of Beni Territory, told Reuters the police had shot dead a man when they opened fire on protesters. A medical source in Beni, who declined to be identified, said one man was killed and five people wounded by gunfire.

Mayor Nyonyi Bwanakawa told local radio that a third person was killed Wednesday in Beni by a lynch mob that suspected him of belonging to the ADF.

A woman and a young girl were also killed on Tuesday night about 40 km (25 miles) north of Beni by ADF fighters, local army spokesman Mak Hazukay told Reuters. The girl, he said, had been decapitated.