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Protests turn violent in Congo capital, at least eight dead (update)

Congolese opposition activists gesture during a march to press President Joseph Kabila to step down in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

Congolese police and anti-government protesters clashed in the capital Kinshasa on Monday, killing at least eight people including three policemen, during a march against President Joseph Kabila’s perceived bid to extend his mandate.

Police spokesman Colonel Pierre Mwanamputu put the toll at eight dead, including three police officers. At least two of them were burned, he said, and five civilians also died.

The protest attended by thousands came amid growing local and international pressure on Kabila to step down when his mandate legally ends in December.

The opposition accuse him of plotting to extend his tenure by delaying elections that were meant to happen in November until at least next year. His supporters deny the charge.

Earlier a Reuters witness saw a crowd burning the body of a police officer in the suburb of Limete in an apparent act of retaliation against police gunfire.

Georges Kapiamba, director of local NGO the Congolese Association For Access to Justice, said that security forces shot dead seven protesters.

Demonstrations also took place in other parts of the country, including Goma, Bukavu, and Beni, he added.

Dozens of people died in similar protests against Kabila last year.

The vast, mineral-rich central African country has never experienced a peaceful transition of power. Donors fear growing political instability could morph into armed conflict in a country plagued by militias, especially in its lawless eastern regions.

Millions died in regional wars in Congo between 1996-2003 that drew in armies from half a dozen countries.

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