Nine killed during gun and machete attack on presidential residence

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Armed gunmen with machetes attacked Congo's presidential residence yesterday, and at least nine people were killed during nearly an hour of gunfire, a witness said.

The president and his wife were not at home at the time of the attack. Communications Minister Lambert Mende appeared on national television last night to say the situation was under control.

"These people wanted to physically harm the president, but the country and all its institutions are functioning normally," Mende said. He said some of the assailants had been killed and wounded, while others were arrested.

A witness near the presidential residence, who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported seeing the bodies of seven attackers and two bodyguards.

While eastern Congo is highly volatile with myriad rebel groups and militias who terrorise civilians, such violence in the capital of Kinshasa is more rare. President Joseph Kabila was elected in 2006 in the country's first democratic election, and is expected to run again in this year's November vote. He first inherited the job from his father, Laurent Kabila, who was assassinated in 2001.

The nation was ravaged by years of dictatorship and civil war, keeping its people from profiting from vast reserves of diamonds, gold and other resources.