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The thud and echo of artillery fire shuddered through the empty streets here Wednesday as a three-week-old civil war spilled into the capital's eastern suburbs. Hundreds of fighters were reported wounded or killed.

Residents of the capital of this central African nation, already battered by power cuts and water shortages, hunkered down for what some feared was the start of a full-scale rebel assault.

Information Minister Didier Mumengi insisted that the situation was under control, but a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on the city.

Rebel officials urged Kinshasa's residents to remain inside their homes.

Angolan and Zimbabwe warplanes have been staging airstrikes in support of their ground troops, who are defending Kabila and his government.

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