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DR Congo security forces repel coordinated attacks by rebels

KINSHASA--Congolese security forces repelled a wave of coordinated attacks in the capital Kinshasa and other cities on Monday, 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, the international airport and the military headquarters.

A government spokesman said more than 70 attackers had been killed, 52 of them in Kinshasa, while three troops had died in the fighting in the capital.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said on state television that “39 terrorists were captured, including two wounded who were given medical treatment” and that nine civilians were also injured.

Defence Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo told journalists the situation was now “totally under control” and an investigation was under way

“Now we have to find out who the assailants are,” he said, as he inspected the sites targeted in Monday's attacks.

Ntambo sought to downplay the attacks, saying many residents of the capital “didn't even notice anything was happening.”

However, the United Nations said its troops in the conflict-ridden Democratic Republic of Congo had been placed on alert following the violence in the capital, the second city Lubumbashi, and the eastern town of Kindu.

U.N. spokesman Martin Niersky said U.N. troops stationed at the airport had engaged the gunmen at the airport, where a staff member was wounded during the exchange of fire.

“The U.N. 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.

The identity of the assailants remains unclear, although a television station employee said they had claimed loyalty to pastor Joseph Mukungubila Mutombo, one of the candidates who challenged Kabila in 2006 elections.

The violence erupted on Monday morning at the offices of state broadcaster RTNC near parliament, as well as the international airport and the main military base in Kinshasa, causing panic among residents.

All flights into and out of the capital's main airport have been halted.

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