Prisoners Convicted for Roles in Assassination of Former Congolese President Laurent Kabila Escape

A group of prisoners convicted for their involvement in the assassination of former Congolese President Laurent Kabila escaped from jail in the capital, prison officials said Tuesday.

Prison director Dido Kitunga said 11 inmates escaped, all members of the late president's military guard who were convicted of playing a role in his assassination in 2001. Dozens were convicted in the crime.

Kitunga said they were discovered missing Tuesday morning.

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Attorney General Tshimanga Mukenda confirmed that a group of prisoners escaped, but said he could not supply an exact number. Mukenda said an investigation into how they escaped is ongoing and declined to comment further.

A senior army official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters, said 14 prisoners who were serving life sentences had escaped from Kinshasa's central prison and two had been caught. He said the 12 others had crossed the Congo River and fled to Brazzaville, capital of neighboring Republic of Congo.

The army official said the prisoners escaped by bribing jail officials and then climbing over the jail walls. He said the 14 included two former army officials and 12 former agents of Congo's intelligence service.

Current Congo President Joseph Kabila took power after his father was shot and helped set up a transition government with the aim of transforming the restive, sprawling Central African nation into a democratic state.

A presidential runoff vote on Sunday will determine whether Joseph Kabila stays in power or hands over rule to challenger Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The identities of those who escaped was not immediately known.

Laurent Kabila was assassinated in the presidential palace in Kinshasa on January 16, 2001 by one of his bodyguards, who was killed minutes later by security forces.

Two years later, a Kinshasa court sentenced 26 people to death in connection with the killing, though none of the executions is known to have been carried out. Some 64 others were sentenced to jail terms ranging from six months to life.

Col. Eddy Kapend — Kabila's cousin, aide-de-camp and the accused ringleader in the assassination — was the most accused of playing a role in the assassination.

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