Police exchange gunfire with unidentified gunmen in Congo's capital Brazzaville
A group of unidentified gunmen exchanged heavy gunfire with police on Monday in Congo's capital Brazzaville near opposition strongholds, witnesses said, the first outbreak of violence since an election last month.
Congo strongman Denis Sassou Nguesso was declared the winner of presidential elections on March 20, extending his 32 years in power in a vote the opposition says was marked by "massive fraud."
Opposition youth erected barricades near the main roundabout in southern Brazzaville's Makelekele neighbourhood while chanting "Sassou, leave!," and setting fire to the local mayor's office and police headquarters.
The gunfire in the Makelekele and Bacongo strongholds, which broke out at (0200 GMT) and lasted for three hours, later resumed at (0700 GMT) as military helicopters patrolled southern Brazzaville, witnesses said.
Nguesso has ruled the Central African oil producing country for 32 years in the last 37 years.
An October referendum pushed through constitutional changes, removing age and term limits that would have prevented him from standing for another term.
The election was described as fraudulent by opposition candidates who had called for a campaign of civil disobedience, meanwhile a general strike had been observed last week in southern Brazzaville but was ignored in the capital's north.
The US State Department criticised the government's decision to cut all telecommunications during voting.
At least 18 people were killed by security forces ahead of the October referendum during demonstrations which turned violent.