Kinshasa: Congolese security forces repelled a wave of coordinated attacks in the capital Kinshasa and other cities, in fierce gun battles that left more than 70 assailants and three troops dead, the government said.
Armed youths believed to be loyal to a pastor who challenged President Joseph Kabila in elections seven years ago stormed the state television station yesterday, the international airport and the military headquarters.
The rebels also targeted Lubumbashi, capital of the resource-rich southeastern state of Katanga -- the economic heart of the country -- and the eastern town of Kindu.
"More than 70 attackers were killed, including around 50 in Kinshasa," government spokesman Lambert Mende told a news agency.
"Three of our own were killed in Kinshasa and two civilians were injured," he added.
Gunfire erupted yesterday morning at the premises of the state broadcaster RTNC near parliament as well as the international airport and the main military base in Kinshasa, causing panic among residents.
A government source later said the situation had been brought under control, but all flights into and out of the capital`s main airport were halted and the United Nations placed its troops on alert.
UN spokesman Martin Niersky said UN troops stationed at the airport had engaged the gunmen at the airport, where a staff member was wounded during the exchange of fire.
"The UN mission in the country, MONUSCO, has taken measures to ensure the safety and security of its staff and placed troops in these locations on alert," Niersky said in New York.
"A UN staff member was wounded during the exchange of fire at the airport but is in a stable condition," he added.
"The identity and motivation of the assailants remains unclear at this stage."
Kinshasa has mostly remained free of the conflicts that have long engulfed the mineral-rich east of the giant African nation.
A television station employee said the hostage takers had claimed loyalty to pastor Joseph Mukungubila Mutombo, one of the candidates who challenged Kabila in 2006 elections. The two men are both from Katanga, where the president was visiting yesterday.
In an open letter dated December 5, Mukungubila expressed bitterness at the way the country was being run and showed his hate for neighbouring Rwanda, which once invaded the DR Congo and is accused by the United Nations of backing rebels.