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DATE=7/20/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-251966 TITLE=CONGO FIGHTING (L-ONLY) BYLINE=JOHN PITMAN DATELINE=ABIDJAN CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: IN CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE, GOVERNMENT TROOPS HAVE REPORTEDLY RECAPTURED A KEY TOWN AND RAILROAD STATION SOUTHWEST OF THE CAPITAL. AS CORRESPONDENT JOHN PITMAN REPORTS FROM OUR WEST AFRICA BUREAU, THE TOWN HAD BEEN HELD BY REBEL MILITIAMEN LOYAL TO THE FORMER PRIME MINISTER. TEXT: MILITARY OFFICIALS IN BRAZZAVILLE SAY GOVERNMENT TROOPS HAVE RECAPTURED THE TOWN OF MINDOULI, ABOUT 100-KILOMETERS SOUTHWEST OF THE CAPITAL. THE NEWS CAME A DAY AFTER GOVERNMENT TROOPS ENTERED THE TOWN. DETAILS ABOUT THE BATTLE FOR THE CITY ALSO REMAIN UNCLEAR, AND LOCAL JOURNALISTS HAVE NOT YET BEEN ABLE TO VISIT THE SCENE OF THE FIGHTING. SOME REPORTS, QUOTING GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, SPEAK OF HEAVY FIGHTING SUNDAY -- INCLUDING BOMBING RAIDS BY A GOVERNMENT HELICOPTER GUNSHIP. BUT OTHER REPORTS SAY GOVERNMENT TROOPS, BACKED BY ANGOLAN SOLDIERS, MET LITTLE RESISTANCE WHEN THEY ENTERED THE TOWN AND CAPTURED THE TRAIN STATION MONDAY. THE TOWN OF MINDULI LIES ON THE RAILROAD LINE WHICH LINKS BRAZZAVILLE WITH THE COUNTRY'S MAIN ECONOMIC CENTER AND PORT, POINTE-NOIRE. BUT SINCE AUGUST OF 1998, WHEN MILITIAMEN LOYAL TO THE FORMER GOVERNMENT LAUNCHED A GUERRILLA WAR AGAINST PRESIDENT DENIS SASSOU N'GUESSO, THE LINE HAS BEEN CUT A NUMBER OF TIMES, AND SEVERAL TRAINS HAVE BEEN AMBUSHED. /// OPT /// THESE DISRUPTIONS OF THE RAIL LINE HAVE FORCED BRAZZAVILLE TO IMPORT MOST OF ITS FOOD BY AIR FROM POINTE-NOIRE OR BY BOAT FROM ACROSS THE CONGO RIVER IN KINSHASA. EARLIER THIS YEAR, THE UNITED NATIONS SAID NEARLY 50-THOUSAND PEOPLE WERE AT RISK OF MALNUTRITION IN BRAZZAVILLE, AND STEPPED UP AN EMERGENCY AIRLIFT OF FOOD AND SUPPLIES. /// END OPT /// THE AREA SOUTHWEST OF BRAZZAVILLE HAS BEEN A WAR ZONE SINCE DECEMBER, WHEN MEMBERS OF THE "NINJA MILITIA", LOYAL TO FORMER PRIME MINISTER BERNARD KOLELAS, LAUNCHED A SERIES OF ATTACKS ON THE CAPITAL AND OTHER TOWNS, LIKE MINDOULI. THE REBELS HAVE ALSO TAKEN HOSTAGES, INCLUDING FOREIGNERS, AND ARE BLAMED IN THE MURDERS OF SEVERAL PRIESTS WHO HAD TRIED TO MEDIATE A TRUCE. HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS SAY VIOLENCE IN THE "POOL" REGION SOUTHWEST OF BRAZZAVILLE HAS CLAIMED BETWEEN FIVE AND SIX-THOUSAND LIVES THIS YEAR. HUMANITARIAN GROUPS SAY CIVILIANS IN THE AREA ARE LIVING IN WHAT THEY CALL -- HORRIBLE CONDITIONS. /// REST OPT /// AT LEAST 10-THOUSAND CONGOLESE DIED IN THE COUNTRY'S BLOODY FIVE-MONTH CIVIL WAR, WHICH ENDED IN OCTOBER 1997. THAT WAR RETURNED MR. SASSOU N'GUESSO, A FORMER PRESIDENT, TO POWER, AND FORCED THE COUNTRY'S ELECTED PRESIDENT, PASCAL LISSOUBA, TO SEEK ASYLUM ABROAD. SINCE THEN, MR. SASSOU N'GUESSO'S GOVERNMENT HAS CHARGED THE FORMER PRESIDENT AND PRIME MINISTER WITH WAR CRIMES, INCLUDING GENOCIDE, AND HAVE LABELED REBEL MILITIAS -- BANDITS. MR. LISSOUBA HAS DENIED THE GENOCIDE CHARGE AND HAS SOUGHT TO RETAIN HIS TITLE AS CONGO'S PRESIDENT. THE GOVERNMENT HAS RECENTLY CLAIMED A SERIES OF VICTORIES AGAINST THE NINJA MILITIA SOUTHWEST OF BRAZZAVILLE. OFFICIALS SAY RECAPTURING MINDOULI HAS DEALT A SERIOUS BLOW TO THE SECRETIVE MILITIA. ONE OFFICIAL HAS BEEN QUOTED AS SAYING THE ARMY WILL TURN ITS ATTENTION TO AN AREA NORTH OF BRAZZAVILLE, WHERE MILITIAMEN LOYAL TO THE FORMER PRESIDENT ARE STILL ACTIVE. THE GOVERNMENT SAYS THE RECAPTURE OF MINDOULI WILL ALSO HELP SPEED ITS WORK TO REOPEN THE RAILROAD BETWEEN BRAZZAVILLE AND POINTE-NOIRE. (SIGNED) NEB/JP/PCF/RAE 20-Jul-99 12:14 PM EDT (1614 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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