Soldiers and rebel militants fought an hourslong gunbattle in the streets of Republic of Congo’s capital Brazzaville on Monday, raising questions over the stability of a long-standing Central African regime.
Days after President Denis Sassou Nguesso won a third seven-year term in a widely denounced election, insurgents burned government buildings and traded shots with soldiers, government officials and witnesses said.
The fighters came from a group called the Ninjas, with a long history of battling—and at times joining—the government, said Communication Minister Thierry Lezin Moungalla.
Witnesses described a scene of chaos in the ordinarily sleepy capital, with armed men rushing to take control of the state. “They told me they were heading to take over the presidency, the national television and the airport,” said 28-year-old salesman Joel Moupaka. A second witness said she saw three bodies on a nearby road.
By early afternoon, stores in Brazzaville had closed and there was an exodus of people across the Congo River to the country’s much larger southern neighbor, Democratic Republic of Congo. “We the people are fed up with this president,” said one woman among them. “The Congolese want him to go.”
Mr. Nguesso, an ex-paratrooper, has ruled this country since 1979, excluding a five-year-long period in the 1990s. In March, he held a presidential election foreign governments broadly characterized as unfair. The European Union refused to send observers, saying it doubted the credibility of the vote.
Mr. Nguesso’s government says the election, which he won with 60% of the vote, was fair and a reflection of widespread popularity in the country of five million. On Monday, Mr. Moungalla, the government spokesman, described the attacks as “acts of terrorism.”
Wall Street Journal.