Congo security forces kill at least four anti-government protesters

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Police allegedly fired live rounds and deployed tear gas inside churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo today, killing three people demonstrating against President Joseph Kabila's refusal to stand down.

Several people were hurt when Congolese security forces violently broke up demonstrations on Sunday against President Joseph Kabila and an officer threatened to shoot journalists covering the unrest, AFP reporters witnessed.

"Two young people were killed in the parish of Saint-Alphonse de Matete", in the east of the country, while another died in the Masina area, police spokesman Colonel Pierrot-Rombaut Mwanamputu said in a televised statement.

Kabila can remain in power until the next election is held, although he is barred by the Constitution from seeking another term in office.

Catholic activists had called for protests after Sunday mass, one year after Kabila committed to holding an election to choose his successor by the end of 2017 - an election that has now been delayed until December 2018.

According to the advocacy group Human Rights Watch, two men were shot dead by the Congolese security forces during the protests.

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Georges Kapiamba, a human rights activist, said he had confirmed with his network of observers that security forces killed at least two people in Kinshasa and one in Kananga.

"It is for reasons of state security", telecommunications minister Emery Okundji told Reuters.

At the Notre-Dame of Congo Cathedral in Gombe, in north Kinshasa, security forces fired tear gas as opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi arrived, AFP news agency reported.

The authorities in Kinshasa banned the protest there, saying they did not have the resources to police it.

Some 40 per cent of Congo's population is Roman Catholic and the Church enjoys rare credibility with the public, even though its leadership has not formally backed the protests.

Deadly street demonstrations organized by the opposition since last December have left dozens dead, raising concern the country could plunge into greater political violence.

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