BRAZZAVILLE The two main opposition alliances in Congo urged the international community on Tuesday to help restore dialogue with the government after clashes erupted in the wake of President Denis Sassou Nguesso's disputed re-election.
Gunbattles broke out on Monday in southern Brazzaville, an opposition stronghold, shattering the relative calm since the March 20 election that opposition candidates say was fraudulent.
Three police officers and two gunmen were killed in the clashes, police spokesman Jules Monkala Tchoumou said on Tuesday.
The government said former members of the "Ninja" militia that fought Sassou Nguesso in a 1997 civil war raided and set alight military, police and local government offices.
Residents of southern neighbourhoods of the capital said that they had seen armed men in civilian attire but could not confirm whether they were indeed former Ninja militiamen.
In a joint statement released on Tuesday, Initiative for Democracy in Congo (IDC) and The Republic Front for the Respect of the Constitutional Order and Democratic Transition (FROCAD), did not comment on the Ninja allegations.
Instead the coalition urged the government to stop what it called "warlike operations", asked the international community to foster a political dialogue and called on Congo's population to participate in peaceful civil disobedience to end the crisis.
On Tuesday morning, Brazzaville was quiet, though many shops and schools remained closed and only a few residents of southern neighbourhoods who had fled to the north on Monday were willing to return home.
Sassou Nguesso has ruled the oil-producing Central African country for 32 of the last 37 years. He won re-election after pushing through a constitutional referendum last October that lifted age and term limits that would have prevented him from standing.
(Reporting by Christian Elion; Writing by Aaron Ross and Marine Pennetier; Editing by Makini Brice and)
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