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Two of Kabila's killers recaptured

KINSHASA, 25 Oct 2006 (IRIN) - Two of the men convicted of killing President Laurent-Desire Kabila, who escaped from jail on Tuesday, have been recaptured, a military officer, who requested anonymity, said on Wednesday.

Military judges in the Democratic Republic of Congo have launched an inquiry into the escape by 11 people convicted of killing President Laurent-Desire Kabila, Attorney-General Mukenda Tshimanga said.

"President Laurent-Desiré Kabila's former guard and secret-service agents were among the escapees," he said.

The 11 escaped on Tuesday from the Makala Penitentiary and Re-Education Centre in the capital, Kinshasa, but two were later recaptured, according to prison officials.

The prison's head warden, Dido Katunga, confirmed the escape, adding that investigations were under way into how the prisoners escaped.

A military officer said two of the escapees were captured late on Tuesday. The rest were thought to have crossed the Congo river into the Republic of Congo.

Nearly 100 people were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five years to life, while 26 were sentenced to death, for their involvement in Kabila's assassination on 16 January 2001 by one of his bodyguards.

Human-rights activists have cast doubt that the prisoners actually escaped.

"We consider that it is rather about a disappearance in the prison because this prison is among the most protected in the country," said Amigo Gonde, chairman of the Kinshasa-based Association for the Defence of Human Rights (Asadho).

However, prison conditions are harsh in the Congo and escapes are frequent, according to the human-rights department of the United Nations Mission in the DRC, MONUC.

MONUC spokesman Jean Tobie Okala said: "Since the beginning of the year, there have been several prison escapes in the country but this has not posed a problem for the elections nor state institutions."

The mission's human-rights section said another 20 inmates, mostly soldiers and policemen, escaped on Saturday from a prison in Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur Province in the northwest of the country.

A national debate has been raging since 2003 on whether or not to grant an amnesty to Kabila's killers, which some say would be in line with the Sun City Accords of 2002, which laid the blueprint for an end to the country's five-year civil war. Former rebel movements - RCD-Goma, MLC, RCD-L, RCD-KML - support the amnesty measure. However, President Joseph Kabila, son of the assassinated president, opposes it, saying his father's killing was murder and not politically motivated. The Supreme Court ruled it was murder.

The late Kabila overthrew President Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 at the end of a year-long rebellion launched in the east of the country with the help of Uganda and Rwanda. Joseph Kabila, who is now contesting the presidency against Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo replaced him. The second round of the presidential elections will be held on Sunday.


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