Congo police: 4 dead after pre-vote clashes

November 27, 2011 - 7:45 AM
APTOPIX Congo Election

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Etienne Tshisekedi are caught between tear gas fired by Congolese riot police and armed Presidential guardsmen at Kinshasa Airport in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. Two people were killed in pre-vote clashes Saturday in Congo's capital before the critical Presidential poll Monday Nov. 28 that observers say could re-ignite conflict in the vast central African nation. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Four bodies were recovered Sunday after clashes in Congo's capital ahead of a critical national poll, a police official said Sunday.

Police inspector general Charles Bisengimana said the bodies were taken to a Kinshasa morgue on Sunday. He said opposition supporters attacked supporters of the president during Saturday's clashes. He also blamed opposition presidential candidate Etienne Tshisekedi for refusing to leave the airport where his supporters had gathered to greet him. Riot police manned the airport until late Saturday to prevent Tshisekedi and his convoy from leaving the scene.

Bisengimana said the situation was calm throughout the country Sunday. Saturday's violence prompted officials to ban rallies before Monday's poll.

Violence erupted Saturday among political supporters who had gathered to greet Tshisekedi, who had planned to come to the airport. Supporters of the president also gathered there to meet him, though he did not pass through the airport.

At the airport, security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition into the burgeoning crowd.

Scuffles erupted on the road to the airport, and two dead bodies were seen on that road. It was not known if those two men were among the four bodies taken to the morgue.

On Sunday, African Union chairman Jean Ping expressed concerns about the poll from the neighboring Republic of Congo.

"The situation in Congo has worried us for a long time," he said in the city of Brazzaville, which is separated from Kinshasa by the Congo River.

In a press release issued Sunday, he said he "deplores the violence that took place in Kinshasa (Saturday), which resulted in loss of life, as well as the various other incidents that marred the election campaign."

Human rights groups had expressed fears about an atmosphere of spiraling violence and hate speech ahead of the vote. The outcome of the vote is almost certain to keep President Joseph Kabila in power.

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Associated Press writer Louis Okamba contributed to this report from Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.