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Group Accuses Congo of Atrocities

December 24, 1998

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (AP) _ Amnesty International on Wednesday accused government and rebel militia fighters in the Republic of Congo of killing civilians, raping women and shelling neighborhoods.

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso’s personal Cobra militia had reportedly killed unarmed civilians accused of supporting the rival Ninja forces loyal to former Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas, the human rights group said in a statement received in Brazzaville.

Government forces had also used rocket launchers and heavy artillery to shell densely-populated neighborhoods said to be Ninja strongholds, the group added.

As many as 15,000 people have fled the southern part of the country to neighboring Congo, the former Zaire, and thousands of others were taking refuge in forests south of Brazzaville. The U.N. World Food Program on Tuesday estimated that at least 20,000 refugees had poured into the capital of Brazzaville.

Amnesty International appealed to the governments of Angola and Chad, which have soldiers in Republic of Congo backing Sassou-Nguesso, to use their influence with the government to ``prevent abuses and protect unarmed civilians.″

The group called for an independent investigation into abuses committed by both sides.

The hostilities are a reversal of last year’s civil war that ravaged Brazzaville when Sassou-Nguesso captured the presidency from Pascal Lissouba, a sometime ally of Kolelas.

Sassou-Nguesso, the Republic of Congo’s longtime Marxist dictator who is now advocating capitalist reform, was ousted in the country’s first multi-party elections in 1992.

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