DR Congo: Americans involved in deadly coup foiled, military says

Arsène Mpiana/AFP/Getty Images

Congolese Republican Guard and police block a road around the site of a coup attempt in Gombe, Kinshasa, on May 19, 2024.


US citizens were involved in an attempted coup that left at least three people dead on Sunday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a military spokesman told CNN on Monday.

The coup attempt, which targeted the residence of Congolese politician Vital Kamerhe and the country’s presidential palace, was led by opposition leader Christian Malanga, who was killed in a shootout between armed coup plotters and the presidential guard, according to the army spokesman, General Sylvain Ekenge. . Ekenge also claimed that Malanga was a US citizen, although the State Department later said it had no records of him.

“I confirm the death of Christian Malanga neutralized during the exchange of fire at the Palacio de la Nación (presidential palace),” Ekenge told CNN, adding that Malanga’s son Marcel “was among those arrested.”

Ekenge named three other Americans, identified as Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun, Patrick Ducey and Taylor Thomson, who were involved in the foiled coup.

“Patrick Ducey and Taylor Thomson are the same person who have two different identities. “We are going to check your passport,” he added.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the US is aware of two other people “allegedly” US citizens who are in custody after the failed coup attempt. Miller said privacy laws prevented him from confirming whether the United States had contacted the Congolese government to obtain consular access to the two individuals.

Videos widely shared on social media, but not verified by CNN, showed a man with bloody face being surrounded by Congolese military personnel.

The US ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lucy Tamlyn, said in a post on social media platform the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the fullest extent possible while they investigate.” these criminal acts and hold accountable any US citizen involved in criminal acts.”

It is not immediately known whether President Félix Tshisekedi, who won re-election for a second term after last December’s disputed vote, was in the presidential palace during the attack.

Sunday’s incident was the second coup attempt by the now-deceased Malanga, a former Congolese military veteran, Ekenge told CNN.

“He tried unsuccessfully in 2017,” Ekenge said, but did not provide further details.

Malanga, 41, who had been in exile in the United States, headed the United Congolese Party, which describes itself as an “opposition political party in exile.”

Cristian Malanga/Reuters

A man dressed in a military uniform speaks as others stand next to him inside the Palace of the Nation during a coup attempt in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on May 19, 2024 in this screenshot from a social media video .

Flanked by his son and other gunmen dressed in military uniform, Malanga was seen in a live-streamed video posted on his Facebook page criticizing the Tshisekedi government and Kamerhe on the morning of the attack, accusing them of doing “a lot of stupid things in this country.” ”. ” according to Reuters.

A statement from the DRC government praised the “quick reaction” of DRC security forces in thwarting the attack, stating that two police officers stationed at politician Kamerhe’s home “were killed in the act”.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, the largest nation in sub-Saharan Africa, is one of the five poorest countries in the world, according to the World Bank, despite its vast mineral wealth.

Parts of the Central African nation are nearly overrun by armed militia groups planning deadly attacks on civilians in their battle for territory and control of the country’s natural resources.

Sub-Saharan Africa has faced a series of coups, the latest of which occurred last August in Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Central African neighbor.

The African Union condemned Sunday’s coup attempt in the Democratic Republic of Congo and welcomed the “control of the situation” by the country’s security forces. SuCNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.