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Congo's army says 3 Americans among those behind coup attempt that was "nipped in the bud"

The Democratic Republic of Congo's army said it foiled a coup attempt early Sunday and arrested the perpetrators, including several foreigners, following attacks on the presidential palace and the residence of a close ally of Congo's president that left three people dead in the capital, Kinshasa. Officials said three U.S. nationals were among those behind the alleged plot, but their identities and whereabouts remained unclear Monday morning.

Local media initially identified the armed men as Congolese soldiers, but then reported they were linked to self-exiled opposition figure Christian Malanga, who later posted a video on Facebook threatening President Felix Tshisekedi from within the presidential palace.

Malanga was killed at the palace after resisting arrest, Congolese army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Sylvain Ekenge told The Associated Press.

The Congolese Republican Guard and police block a road around the scene of an attempted Coup in Kinshasa on May 19, 2024. ARSENE MPIANA/AFP via Getty Images

Tshisekedi was reelected as president in December in a chaotic election that saw opposition parties demand a revote over what they said was a lack of transparency. The Central African country has witnessed similar trends of disputed elections in the past.

Ekenge said Sunday on state television that the attempted coup d'état was "nipped in the bud by Congolese defense and security forces (and) the situation is under control." 

He later told the AP that three Americans were among the perpetrators, including the son of Malanga.

U.S. Ambassador to the DRC Lucy Tamlyn said on social media that she was "shocked" and "concerned by reports of American citizens allegedly involved." She said the U.S. would cooperate with Congolese authorities.

The alleged coup attempt also came amid a crisis within Tshisekedi's ruling party, over an election for the parliament's leadership that was supposed to be held Saturday but was postponed.

President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Felix Tshisekedi addresses reporters at the Elysee Palace during a visit to Paris, France, April 30, 2024. CHRISTOPHE ENA/POOL/AFP/Getty

Clashes were reported Sunday between men in military uniforms and guards of Vital Kamerhe, a federal legislator and a candidate for speaker of the National Assembly of Congo, at his residence in Kinshasa, about 1.2 miles from the presidential palace and where some embassies are also located.

Kamerhe's guards stopped the armed men, Michel Moto Muhima, the politician's spokesperson said on the X social media platform, adding that two police officers and one of the attackers were killed in the shootout that started around 4:30 a.m.

Footage, seemingly from the area, showed military trucks and heavily armed men parading deserted streets in the neighborhood as the army said the situation has been brought under control.

Meanwhile, the self-exiled Malanga appeared in the live-streamed video at the presidential palace surrounded by several people in military uniform and said: "Felix, you're out. We are coming for you."

On his website, the opposition leader's group — the United Congolese Party (UCP) — is described as "a grassroots platform that unifies the Congolese Diaspora around the world opposing the current Congolese dictatorship."

Tshisekedi has not addressed the public about Sunday's events. On Friday, he met with parliamentarians and leaders of the Sacred Union of the Nation ruling coalition in an attempt to resolve the crisis gripping his party, which dominates the national assembly. He said he would not "hesitate to dissolve the National Assembly and send everyone to new elections if these bad practices persist."

The U.S. Embassy in Congo issued a security alert Sunday urging caution after "reports of gunfire."

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