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Scores die as followers of 'prophet' Gedeon seize TV station in Congo

Jean Robert N'kengo / Reuters

Congolese security officers attempt to secure a street near the state television headquarters in the capital Kinshasa on Monday.

KINSHASA - Around 100 people were killed in Democratic Republic of Congo when security forces clashed with supporters of a self-proclaimed prophet who tried to seize control of the airport, a military barracks and state television, the government said Tuesday.

Before transmission was shut down at state television in capital Kinshasa on Monday, the attackers shouted slogans in favor of disgruntled religious leader Paul Joseph Mukungubila and against President Joseph Kabila.

"Gedeon Mukungubila has come to free you from the slavery of the Rwandan," shouted one youth in the Lingala language on television, while two panicked presenters stared at the camera. 

Opponents of Kabila, who was educated in Tanzania and Uganda, accuse him of being a Rwandan in an attempt to tarnish his reputation. Mukungubila, who calls himself "the prophet of the Eternal" and is nicknamed Gedeon by his followers, made a failed bid for the presidency against Kabila in 2006. 

Armed youths who attacked the airport, a military barracks and the state television headquarters in Kinshasa on Monday were repulsed by troops. Several corpses lay on the rain-soaked ground outside the brightly painted gates of the state television center after the attack, a Reuters witness said. 

"There are around 100 dead," government spokesman government spokesman Lambert Mende said on Tuesday, adding that Mukungubila was on the run from authorities.

Democratic Republic of Congo is struggling to emerge from decades of violence and instability, particularly in its east, in which millions of people have died, mostly from hunger and disease. A 21,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) is stationed in the country.

A local MONUSCO staff member was wounded during shooting at the airport but was in a stable condition, a U.N. spokesman said. 

Kabila has ruled the vast, mineral-rich African nation since 2001 following the assassination of his father, Laurent.  

Political tension has risen amid speculation that Kabila may try to change the constitution and run for a third term in 2016 against a fragmented opposition. The defeat of M23, Congo's most important rebel group, strengthened his grip on power. 

- Reuters

Ann Curry reports from Eastern Congo on the remarkable story of two child soldiers, once sworn enemies, who became lifelong friends.