KINSHASA : At least five people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, the UN said, as the authorities cracked down on a banned protest against President Joseph Kabila. Witnesses said security forces fired live rounds and tear gas in Kinshasa to disperse demonstrators who gathered after Catholic church leaders called for a mass peaceful demonstration against Kabila's 17-year rule. In all, the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO said at least five people were killed in Kinshasa and 33 others injured nationwide, while 69 people were arrested. A 16-year-old girl died after shots were fired from an armoured vehicle at the entrance to a church in the Kitambo area of the capital, Jean-Baptise Sondji, a former minister and government opponent, told AFP. Sunday's bloody crackdown comes three weeks after a similar march on New Year's Eve ended in deadly violence, during which organisers said a dozen people were killed.

"An armoured car passed in front of the church. They began firing live bullets, I protected myself," Sondji, who is also a doctor, said by telephone. "A girl who was at the left side door of the church was hit by a bullet," he said, adding that she was already dead when she was taken by taxi to hospital. Tensions were also reported by AFP journalists in the major cities of Kisangani, Lubumbashi, Goma, Beni and Mbuji Mayi.