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Security force kills 24 in Congo

Security force kills 24 in Congo
Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (UPI Photo/Ezio Petersen) | License Photo

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Congolese security forces have killed at least 24 people and detained dozens more in Kinshasa since the recent presidential election, Human Rights Watch said.

"Since Joseph Kabila was declared the winner of the presidential election, security forces have been firing on small crowds, apparently trying to prevent protests against the result," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "These bloody tactics further undermine the electoral process and leave the impression that the government will do whatever it takes to stay in power."

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Those killed include opposition activists and supporters, along with people gathering on the street and in their homes, the Human Rights Watch reported in a release Thursday.

"The callous shooting of peaceful demonstrators and bystanders by the security forces starkly illustrates the depths the government will reach to suppress dissenting voices," Van Woudenberg said. "The [United Nations] and Congo's international partners should urgently demand that the government rein in its security forces."

The violence has reportedly been carried out by the Republican Guard, a force of about 12,000 soldiers whose primary task is to protect the president. Human Rights Watch said this force has no authority to arrest citizens, detain them or provide security for elections.

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"The Republican Guard has no authority to arrest Congolese civilians and hold them at illegal places of detention," Van Woudenberg said. "The government should order the immediate release of all detainees in their custody, and undertake an impartial investigation into responsibility for these unlawful arrests and the mistreatment of detainees."

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