KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo's government said on Tuesday it would launch a fresh crackdown on criminal gangs and defended its previous such operation against allegations from a human rights group that it executed 51 people.
Interior and Security Minister Evariste Boshab announced the new campaign at the release of a long-awaited government report into Operation Likofi, a three-month crackdown against gangs in the capital that started in November 2013.
Likofi, which means "punch" in the Lingala language, was an "exemplary success", Boshab told a news conference. He gave no death toll but said that even if just one person died unnecessarily the government would consider that a failure.
The new campaign would be "conducted with strict respect of the operational plan" with a view to guaranteeing respect for human rights, he said, without giving details.
The campaign would come in the context of high tension in the country because of uncertainty over the political intentions of President Joseph Kabila.
He is ineligible to stand at an election due in November after serving two elected terms. His opponents accuse him of plotting to retain power by delaying the poll or even changing the constitution to remove the term limit.
U.S. human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch has said police summarily executed at least 51 people during Operation Likofi and were responsible for the disappearance of at least 33 more.
The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in Congo accused the Congolese National Police of executing at least nine people in the operation and said 41 people died and 32 others have not been seen since.
Nongovernmental organizations in Kinshasa criticized the government's report, arguing that it downplayed the number of killings, failed to mention those who had disappeared and had come far too long after the events themselves.
(Reporting by Amédée Mwarabu Kiboko, writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Matthew Lewis)