UN frees diplomats trapped in Congo attack

Several foreign diplomats are now safe after being caught in the middle of a gun battle outside the presidential challenger's command in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations said on Monday.

Several foreign diplomatswho were trapped in the home of a Congolese presidential candidate when gunfire eruptedoutside are now safe, a United Nations spokesman said on Monday.

The diplomats, including chief of mission William Swing, were en route to Kinshasa, after being whisked away by UN peacekeepers, Jean-Tobias Okala said."They're out and they're coming to UN headquarters. Everyone's safe."

Swing and about a dozen envoys from the United States, France, China and other countries were inside challenger Jean-Pierre Bemba's home when the 30-minute attack began. The diplomats remaining inside for several hours before being rescued. There were no reports of injuries.

Bemba's party has blamed the incident on guards employed by President Joseph Kabila.

The incident came after the independent electoral commission announced Sunday that Kabila would have toface Bemba in a second round of voting in the Democratic Republic of Congo after failing to win the necessary majority on July 30.

The next round will take place on October, pushing back a planned inauguration for the president-elect until December.

First election in 46 years

Kabila won 45 per cent of the 16.9 million votes cast in the balloting, while Bemba had 20 per cent in the first multi-party parliamentary and presidential elections since the country won independence from Belgium 46 years ago. The rest of the votes cast were split among more than 30 other candidates.

Voter turnout was estimated at 70 per cent.

Congo was ravaged by civil war between 1998 and 2003, with approximately four million people killed. The violence drew in several other African countries, including Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

In addition to thousands of Congolese police and other forces, about 17,000 United Nations peacekeepers and another 1,000 troops from Europe have helped try and ensurea safe and democraticelectoral process. At a cost of $460 million US, it was the most expensive U.N. mission of its kind ever mounted.

Still, there has been episodic violence the past several weeks. Clashes Sunday left five people dead, according to the UN.

With files from Associated Press