Separatist rebels staged an incursion into the Democratic Republic of Congo’s major mining town of Lubumbashi during the night leaving two policemen and a soldier dead, officials said Saturday.
“The toll is 16 attackers neutralised, several wounded and captured,” provincial interior minister Philbert Kunda Milundu announced.
“Two policemen were decapitated and one soldier shot dead,” he told reporters, adding that no civilians had been hurt.
“Bakata Katanga insurgents entered the town from 1am,” (2300 GMT Friday) firing live bullets, the minister had earlier told AFP.
“They managed to reach the town centre,” he added.
Several witnesses told AFP the rebels had raised the flag of the former republic of copper and cobalt-rich Katanga in a main square of Lubumbashi, in the country’s southeast.
However, with gunfire becoming only sporadic, the town’s biggest shop opened for business during the morning at the request of the mayor, an AFP correspondent said.
Soldiers and police were deployed in large numbers and state television and radio were off the air in Lubumbashi.
“The situation is under control. It’s time to clean up,” Upper Katanga province’s information minister and spokesman Harce Kayumba told AFP.
“The shooting you can hear now is more dissuasive than confrontational, at least for now,” the minister added.
Security forces had been ordered to fire in the air.
“Our forces have been told not to shoot at them but to follow them on their way through,” Kayumba said.
An attempted breakout from the town’s Kassapa jail had been brought under control. “There were no deaths but there are injured,” he said.
Officials were to provide an update on the situation in Lubumbashi after a security meeting.
The insurgents, fighting for the mining-rich region to secede from DR Congo, had raised the Katanga flag in Lubumbashi in 2015 before handing themselves over to UN forces.
The rebels were demobilised in Lubumbashi and due to be returned to civilian life. However they say the authorities abandoned them after a period of training at an army base.