Three Americans held over foiled Democratic Republic of the Congo coup attempt

Washington says it is 'extremely concerned' by the reports and will co-operate with authorities

A still from video streamed on social media shows armed men inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo presidential residence in Kinshasa. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

The US has promised to fully co-operate with authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after at least three Americans were reportedly involved in a brazen and ill-fated coup attempt at the weekend.

According to Congolese army spokesman Brig Gen Sylvain Ekenge, six people were killed and dozens arrested, including the three US citizens, in an attack on the residence of a close ally of President Felix Tshisekedi.

The attempted coup was led by opposition leader Christian Malanga, whose group live-streamed the attack online.

Mr Malanga had persuaded his Utah-born son, Marcel Malanga, 21, to join in the foiled coup, according to Congolese officials' descriptions of events.

The other two confirmed Americans involved were a convicted marijuana trafficker, Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun, and Taylor Thomson.

Brig Gen Ekenge said Christian Malanga was a naturalised US citizen, but the US State Department could not immediately confirm that.

He was killed in a shootout at the palace after resisting arrest.

“With respect to the individual who is deceased, we do not have any record of him being a United States citizen,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Mr Miller said the US was “extremely concerned” by reports of involvement by US citizens.

“We are closely monitoring the situation, and we will co-operate with DRC authorities to the fullest extent possible to investigate,” he told reporters.

The UAE condemned the coup attempt and stressed the importance of maintaining stability and security in the DRC.

US authorities were trying to understand how Marcel Malanga went from playing American football in high school in Utah to allegedly trying to unseat the leader of one of Africa’s largest countries.

His mother, Brittney Sawyer, told the Associated Press that her son was innocent.

Ms Sawyer had regularly posted proud family photos on social media, including one in December showing Marcel, a young sister and a toddler hugging in matching Christmas pyjamas.

Then, in a Facebook post on Monday, Ms Sawyer angrily wrote that her son had followed his father.

“This was an innocent boy following his father. I’m so tired of all the videos being posted all over and being sent to me. God will take care of you people!”

Mr Tshisekedi, 60, came to power in January 2019 after a disputed election that many observers said he had lost.

Updated: May 22, 2024, 6:30 AM