U.N. troops fired on rampaging protesters in Congo's capital Thursday, killing at least two people, as the capture of an eastern city by renegade commanders sparked the most violent protests here since the outbreak of the country's 1998-2003 war.
Crowds turned on the government of President Joseph Kabila and the 10,800-member U.N. force in Congo for failing to stop the fall of Bukavu, surging into the streets by the tens of thousands and attacking U.N. installations.
"The state is dead!" protesters cried at demonstrations that broke out at daybreak, filling the city center with thunderous chants. Many toted wooden clubs as they converged on U.N. posts.
U.N. officials said demonstrators also attacked missions in the eastern town of Kindu, the northeastern city of Kisangani and the southern mining center of Lubumbashi, where staff members sought refuge with the army, the Reuters news agency reported.
Despite the bloodshed, hope rose of defusing the unprecedented crisis for Congo's fragile postwar government when renegade commanders in the east agreed to end their takeover of Bukavu by Friday.
"We shall withdraw . . . to assure the transitional government that we are not opposed to it," Brig. Gen. Laurent Nkunda, one of two commanders who broke from ranks of the government's forces and seized Bukavu on Wednesday, told the Associated Press.
Kabila blamed Rwanda, Congo's primary foreign adversary in the war, for the fall of Bukavu, a strategic trading center on the Rwandan border. Rwandan officials denied the charge.
In New York, the U.N. undersecretary general for peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, blamed the violence on unreasonable expectations among Congolese about the U.N. peacekeepers' ability to control the situation.
"There's an expectation that MONUC with its limited resources could do everything," Guehenno said, according to the AP, in reference to the U.N. mission in Congo. "I think it's likely we will need more troops."
At a U.N. logistics base in Kinshasa, crowds broke down the main door and began looting, said Hamadoun Toure, a U.N. spokesman. U.N. troops inside opened fire, killing two protesters and wounding one, he said.
"They entered, and there were very many of them," Toure told the AP. He said U.N. forces fired in self-defense, adding: "We regret this deeply because our mission was to establish peace in the country, but we were left with no choice."
State radio said that five people were killed at the U.N. base.
In a separate incident, Congolese security forces fired, apparently into the air, to hold back thousands of protesters besieging U.N. mission headquarters in the heart of Kinshasa. Shattered glass, rocks and chunks of wood surrounded the cordons of Congolese troops.
Protesters also burned the offices of former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, one of four vice presidents in the power-sharing government, officials said.
The city calmed down by early afternoon, and the demonstrators picked their way home through burned vehicles, tires and barricades.
The protests were the largest in the capital since at least 1997, when longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko fell, launching Congo into the five-year war.
The war drew in the armies of six nations, including Rwanda, and split the country. The fighting, and the famine and disease it created, killed an estimated 3.5 million people.
Nkunda and Col. Jules Mutebutsi, the renegade commanders who seized Bukavu, were members of a rebel group allied with Rwanda during the war.
Talks with U.N. officials yielded Nkunda's promise to pull out of Bukavu by Friday, allowing U.N. forces to take control.