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Blast hits Spanish Embassy in Congo

Story Highlights

• Grenade or mortar shell strikes Spanish Embassy in Kinshasa, Congo
• Embassy evacuated under U.N. guard, but no one hurt
• Unclear whether embassy was targeted or just caught in crossfire
• Embassy is near home of former rebel leader who lost election
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KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo (CNN) -- A grenade or mortar shell struck the Spanish Embassy during fighting between factions in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, a Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman told CNN.

The blast caused no injuries but prompted the evacuation of Spanish diplomats in U.N. armored vehicles, the spokesman said.

Spanish-speaking troops from Uruguay, part of the 17,000-strong U.N. force in the country, moved in quickly after the shell hit the embassy amid ongoing disturbances that included gunfire, the spokesman said.

The diplomats were taken to a secure U.N. building in Kinshasa, the nation's capital.

The Spanish Embassy is near the residence of former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who lost a presidential election last October to Joseph Kabila.

Bemba loyalists battled government troops Thursday in what Spanish diplomats described as the most intense fighting since Kabila began his presidential term last December.

It was not immediately clear if the embassy was a target or simply was hit in the crossfire, the spokesman said.

The Spanish Embassy has about 20 staff members; it was not immediately known how many were in the embassy at the time of the blast.

There are about 330 Spanish citizens in the country, mainly missionaries or people who have married Congolese nationals, the spokesman said. No casualties were reported among the Spaniards.

Spain deployed troops to the Congo, formerly known as Zaire, last year to help the international force maintaining order before the elections. Last August, Spanish legionnaires in armored vehicles rescued international diplomats who were meeting with Bemba when fighting broke.

Spain no longer maintains troops there.

Congo was torn by civil war from the mid-1990s until the establishment of a transitional government in 2003. Elections were held in 2006 and Kabila was inaugurated as president last December.

CNN's Al Goodman contributed to this report.




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