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Fighting breaks out in Congo capital between police and unknown gunmen

Police have exchanged fire with suspected militiamen in Brazzaville. The fighting is the first bout of intense violence since President Denis Sassou Nguesso's controversial re-election last month.

Chaos erupted on the streets of the Republic of Congo's capital on Monday, as police fought with unknown gunmen and young activists set fire to a couple of administrative buildings.

The fighting occurred in Makelekele and Bacongo, areas of the city known to be political opposition strongholds. One government official told The Associated Press that the gunmen were members of a militia called the Ninjas, although that has not been confirmed.

The Ninjas were a significant force during the 1998-99 civil war, but were disbanded in the early 2000s. The group's leader, Frederic Bitsangou, eventually became a minister in the government.

Kongo Verfassungsreferendum - Präsident Denis Sassou Nguessou

Opponents say Nguesso's re-election is a fraud

Anger at Nguesso

Young people opposed to the president also reportedly set fire to the mayor's office and police headquarters.

It is the first such violence to erupt in the country since Nguesso was re-elected for a controversial third term last month. Political opponents - including at least one former Nguesso ally - have called his re-election a fraud.

Nguesso, a 72-year-old former army officer, has governed Congo for 32 of the last 37 years. He controversially pushed through the legislation allowing him to run for a third term.

blc/msh (Reuters, AP)

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