Warrant Issued for Former Warlord as Congo Fighting Continues

Congo's chief prosecutor issued an arrest warrant Friday for a former warlord and senator who took refuge inside a foreign embassy while his personal army and government troops fought in the capital.

Former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba said he would not surrender, but had ordered his troops to stop fighting.

Prosecutor Tsaimanga Mukenda said that neither Bemba's immunity as a senator nor the fact that he had sought refuge in the South African Embassy would stop the government from seeking his arrest on charges of high treason.

"He has caused serious infractions by organizing a militia and by ordering looting ... his actions amount to high treason and we will pursue him wherever he is," Mukenda said, adding he would ask parliament to strip Bemba of immunity.

Bemba accused the government of starting the violence and said its goal appeared to be "to kill me." He added in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. that he had heard he was being sought for arrest and that he would not surrender.

"For what reason? I have been attacked, and if someone has to complain, it's me," he told the BBC from the South African Embassy. He said he had called on his supporters to stop fighting, and wanted a political solution. He said he had not decided whether to request asylum from South Africa.

Bemba, whose personal army began clashing with security forces Thursday, arrived at the South African Embassy Thursday night with his wife, said the embassy's charge d'affaires, Kenneth Pedro.

"This is a temporary measure, until a cease-fire is dehe first in the capital since Congo installed Joseph Kabila as president on Dec. 6, making him the nation's first freely elected president since 1960.

Bemba, who came in second in the presidential run-off, initially rejected the election results and his militia took to the streets, clashing with Kabila's security forces. At least two dozen civilians were killed. Bemba gave up his challenge after the Supreme Court rejected his claims and was recently elected to the Senate, but he has so far refused to disband his personal army, which is thought to number in the thousands.