KINSHASA (Reuters) – Suspected agents of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) abducted seven youth activists at a peaceful rally in Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, a youth group said.

The LUCHA group said the activists, who included four members of the group, were bundled into a white Jeep by plain clothes agents and taken to an undisclosed location. The incident happened during a rally in the capital Kinshasa to draw attention to the security crisis in the east of the country, LUCHA said.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidency, which oversees the ANR, told Reuters to seek comment from the ANR. The ANR did not respond.

“LUCHA is particularly concerned about the safety and physical well-being of its comrades,” the group said in a statement on Sunday, calling on the authorities to immediately release those being held.

“Instead of carrying out abductions of innocent citizens in Kinshasa, security services could make themselves useful in eastern Congo where armed groups, including the M23, are active.”

A government source told Reuters the detained activists would be questioned on Sunday, but said it was not clear why they were being held. “For the moment we do not know what they are accused of,” the source said.

Saturday’s rally was organised to mark the 600 days that the strategic eastern border town of Bunagana has been occupied by Tutsi-led M23 rebels, whose renewed offensives since 2022 have forced tens of thousands to flee and worsened the region’s decades-long security and humanitarian crisis.

“While we are concerned about the M23’s advance, the ANR continues to arrest activists protesting the occupation … Are you with the enemy or with the Congolese people?,” said Jean-Claude Katende, president of the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADHO), on social media platform X on Sunday. “Shame on you.”

Rights groups and critics have repeatedly accused President Felix Tshisekedi’s administration of stifling dissent and freedom of expression. The presidency and government deny this.

(Reporting by Ange Kasongo; Additional reporting by Sonia Rolley and Yassin Kombi; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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