Africa

DR Congo's Lubumbashi hit by fighting

DR Congo soldiers patrol near Beni in North Kivu province on 31 December 2013
Image caption Government troops are fighting several rebel groups

At least 26 people have been killed in an eight-hour battle between government and rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo's second city Lubumbashi, police say.

The rebels were beaten back on Tuesday morning after heavy fighting overnight, police said.

The city of more than a million people was deserted, police added.

The assault was launched by the Mai Mai Kata Katanga, a secessionist group in the region, police said.

It is fighting for the independence of Katanga, the richest province in DR Congo.

The group is led by Gedeon Kyungu Mutanga, who was freed during an attack by gunmen on Lubumbashi's prison in September 2011.

The largest cobalt deposits in the world are in Katanga - and the province is the second biggest African provider of copper.

Lubumbashi police inspector-general Patrick Sadiki told the BBC that the 26 dead included government soldiers and rebel fighters.

Businesses were shut and most people had stayed indoors on Tuesday, he said.

Government troops were patrolling Lubumbashi after pushing the rebels some 25km (15 miles) out of the city, Mr Sadiki added.

Last March, five people were killed when suspected Mai Mai militia entered Lubumbashi.

In February 2011, a security guard was killed during an attack on the city's airport.

The attackers left behind the flag of an old Katangan secessionist movement known as the Tigers.

Understanding DR Congo

Image caption Eastern DR Congo is awash with a variety of different rebel groups. This is a snapshot of their locations in late 2012, before the M23's defeat. Some have come from neighbouring countries, others have formed as self-defence groups. Many are taking advantage of the lack of a strong state to seize control of the area's mineral riches.
Image caption The Democratic Republic of Congo covers 2,344,858 square km of land in the centre of Africa, making it the 12th largest country in the world.
Image caption With an estimated population of 75.5 million, DR Congo is the fourth most populous country in Africa. Some 35% of the population live in cities and the capital Kinshasa is by far the largest, with more than 8 million inhabitants. DR Congo has about 200 ethnic identities with the majority of people belonging to the Kongo, Luba and Mongo groups.
Image caption DR Congo has abundant mineral wealth. It has more than 70% of the world's coltan, used to make vital components of mobile phones, 30% of the planet's diamond reserves and vast deposits of cobalt, copper and bauxite. This wealth, however, has attracted looters and fuelled the country's civil war.

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