Ten killed in Congo "Ninja'' rebel attack - police

BRAZZAVILLE, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Ten people died when "Ninja'' militiamen attacked a town in Congo Republic, the latest in a string of clashes between insurgents and forces loyal to the president of the oil-rich nation, police said on Tuesday.

Police sources said the dawn raid happened on Monday in a town called Yamba, some 250 kms (150 miles) southwest of the central African nation's capital Brazzaville. They said Yamba's police commissioner was killed in the attack.

The so-called Ninja fighters, who take their name from an ancient band of Japanese warriors made popular by Hollywood movies, hide out in the forests of the Pool region and are led by renegade Pastor Frederik Ntoumi.

The have launched a series of attacks from their southern strongholds since President Denis Sassou Nguesso won an election landslide in March last year, a poll from which his main rivals were excluded.

Scores of people died in June during fighting in the outskirts of Brazzaville. The Ninja rebels also ambush goods trains travelling between Brazzaville and the country's main port at Pointe Noire on the Atlantic coast.

The Ninjas have called on the government to hold round-table political talks including exiled opposition leaders Pascal Lissouba and Bernard Kolelas, ousted by Sassou from the posts of president and prime minister after a 1997 civil war.

The police sources told Reuters that the rebels looted shops and homes in Yamba before retreating back to the nearby Pool forests. Last week militiamen attacked a goods train, killing one person and injuring many more.

The fighting is part of a long-standing power struggle in the country of fewer than three million between the more densely populated agricultural south and Sassou's north, traditionally a land of hunters and fighters.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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