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At Least 11 People Killed, More Than 900 Inmates Freed In Congo Prison Attack

The governor of North Kivu Julien Paluku.
AFP/Getty Images
The governor of North Kivu Julien Paluku.

An attack on a prison in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has left at least 11 people dead, according to a provincial governor there. Julien Paluku, governor of North Kivu province, announced Sunday that 930 prisoners in the northeastern city of Beni escaped in the course of the attack.

Paluku says that eight prison guards number among the dead.

Only about 30 inmates remain in the prison in Beni, where authorities have declared a curfew.

"Only the army and the police have the right to circulate in order to have control over the enemy," Paluku said, according to a translation by The Associated Press.

It remains unclear who carried out the attack, though Reuters notes it is neither the first nor the largest attack on a prison in the country this year:

"About 4,000 inmates escaped the capital Kinshasa's main high-security prison last month after an attack blamed on a separatist sect, and at least three more escaped from another jail in Kinshasa on Saturday, the police said."

Congo remains roiled by political and social unrest. President Joseph Kabila's two-term presidential limit expired last year without elections to determine his replacement. And, as NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reported earlier this year, his failure to hold a vote has prompted both protests and government retaliation.

"He is in power because of force," Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, a Congolese political analyst, told Ofeibea. "He controls the force and the fact that the international community has allowed that to continue."

More people were displaced by conflict or violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year than anywhere else in the world, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. The organization found that nearly a million people were displaced in the country — more than Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the next three countries on its rankings.

The IDMC says the displacements were driven largely by violence in Kasa, South Kivu — and North Kivu, the province where Sunday's prison attack unfolded.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.