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FIGHTING NEAR CONGO CAPITAL GROWS MORE VICIOUS, DEADLY

Government soldiers grip a writhing captive by his arms and feet. He wails for mercy. They hurl him over the edge of a bridge into shallow water at least 45 feet below, then shoot him to death.

This is the state of war in Congo's capital, Kinshasa, which rebel forces say they are determined to capture. Government troops are bent on finishing them off.

Government forces shot down a rebel helicopter over an eastern suburb of the capital today, killing and wounding several civilians on the ground, witnesses said.

Thousands of people were fleeing the suburb of Kingasani near the airport, where heavy fighting was reported between government-allied troops and rebel forces.

It was not immediately clear how many people were killed, but Bernard Makenga, a Congolese journalist who witnessed the incident, said he saw a number of bodies scattered about.

Earlier today, the government had broadcast an appeal asking rebel soldiers who had defected from President Laurent Kabila's army to lay down their arms.

Rebels from a coalition force of ethnic Tutsi fighters and disenchanted members of Kabila's army had slipped into parts of the capital in recent days and launched an assault to take the airport.

Vengeful government forces turned their fury on captives. The killing, it appears, has just begun.

Between crowded stalls at the city's Central Market, government troops arrested three men, slapped them to the ground and gunned them down execution-style in front of at least a dozen people.

The gunfire jolted a tense city that earlier endured artillery battles in the eastern outskirts that left hundreds wounded and dead.

Kabila's cabinet director, Abdoulaye Yerodia, said more than 1,000 prisoners had been taken.

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