Government spokesman Lambert Mende confirmed the attack, saying around 40 people were killed, including 16 at the military base, 16 at the airport and eight at the TV station. Another six were captured, he said.
"These are terrorists, you can't call them anything else," Mr Mende said.
Most people first realised the attack was under way while watching a morning talk show on Radio Television Nationale Congolaise, the state broadcaster.
The presenter of Le Panier show was in mid-sentence when the intruders burst in. They had time to identify themselves as being devotees of a local prophet before the signal on state TV was cut, said Pascal Amisi, the deputy chief of staff of DR Congo's minister of communication.