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Published: Wednesday December 18, 2013 MYT 5:45:02 AM
Updated: Wednesday December 18, 2013 MYT 5:45:50 AM

Clashes over Congo Republic security official killed at least 22

BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) - At least 22 people were killed when security forces raided the house of Republic of Congo's former deputy intelligence chief and clashed with his security guards, a morgue official said.

Gunfire rang out early on Monday as police and soldiers surrounded the home of Colonel Marcel Ntsourou, shutting down roads, schools and businesses in downtown Brazzaville.

At the time, officials did not give details of any casualties. But an official at a Brazzaville morgue, who asked not to be named, told Reuters on Tuesday he had seen 22 corpses.

"We have received ... bodies with bullet wounds though one had a smashed head. Most of the bodies were dressed in civilian clothes," the official added.

A police source said the final toll could be higher as there were about 100 people at Ntsourou's house during the fighting.

Congolese police chief General Jean Francois Ndenguet said in a statement the force had got a search warrant for Ntsourou's residence after a vehicle carrying gunmen who shot at police on Sunday was traced to the property.

Ntsourou was arrested though his lawyer, Herve Ambroise Malonga, told Reuters the colonel had not been charged.

Christophe Wille, an analyst at Control Risks, said Monday's raid appeared to be part of a crackdown on dissent.

"(President Sassou Nguesso) considers that disgruntled officers pose the greatest threat to the stability of his regime ... Further crackdowns on regime opponents are likely," Wille told Reuters.

Ntsourou was previously a key figure in the president's security network in the relatively peaceful Central African oil producer.

But he became one of the Nguesso's most vocal critics after being arrested following an explosion at a heavy weapons depot in the city that killed hundreds and injured thousands in 2012.

The government was widely criticised for storing the weapons in a densely populated area.

Ntsourou - who was convicted in September of involuntary responsibility for the blast, given a five-year suspended sentenced and released - has since said he was being used as a scapegoat.

(Reporting by Christian Tsoumou; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Emma Farge and Andrew Heavens)

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