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Rebels Killed in Republic of Congo

December 7, 1998

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (AP) _ Republic of Congo government troops killed 60 rebel militiamen during bloody weekend clashes in the southern rebel stronghold of Ntadi, the state news agency reported Monday.

At least three government soldiers were also killed during fighting sparked when the rebels tried to ambush the troops Saturday, the Congolese Information Agency said.

The government’s account could not be independently confirmed, and other reports gave much higher casualties on their side.

Pitched battles between government troops and rebels flared Monday in the Mindouli district, 15 miles from Ntadi, a senior military official said on condition of anonymity.

An Information Ministry official told The Associated Press that the situation was rapidly deteriorating. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the so-called Ninja rebels had infiltrated Mindouli via a railway link.

More troops have been deployed in the region to beef up security.

Ninja rebels gunned down 45 worshipers about two weeks ago in Mindouli, about 80 miles west of the capital, Brazzaville.

The killings are the latest in a growing number of attacks on civilian and government targets in the south of Republic of Congo, which borders the former Zaire, now known as Congo.

Dozens of officials have been killed over the past few months, news reports say.

The Ninjas have links to former Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas, a sometime-ally of ousted President Pascal Lissouba. Both fled the country after President Denis Sassou-Nguesso defeated Lissouba in a five-month civil war last year.

Since his takeover, Sassou-Nguesso has outlawed all militia groups including his own Cobras. The Ninjas have resisted disarmament and are waging a campaign against the government.

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