May 24, 2006

Congo arrests 30 foreigners in suspected coup plot

KINSHASA (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo said
on Wednesday it had arrested about 30 foreigners, including
Nigerians, Americans and South Africans, in a suspected coup
plot ahead of elections scheduled for July 30.

"About 30 people claiming to work for a security company
have been arrested. They say they were working for the company
but our information suggests they had other intentions,"
government spokesman Henri Mova Sakanyi told Reuters.

"They wanted to destabilize the institutions of the
country, that means a coup attempt."

Sakanyi said the group had been arrested a few days ago but
did not give any details other than that they worked for
security firm.

"There are Nigerians, Americans and South Africans. They
will be tried in court," he said.

A Western diplomat confirmed the nationalities.

"They have been accused of being mercenaries as they have
all come back from Iraq," the diplomat said.

"This is a clear sign that things are getting very tense in
Kinshasa in the lead up to the elections," an analyst, who
declined to be named, said. "It is not clear whether this is a
front to clamp down on people."

Long-awaited presidential and legislative elections are due
in Congo on July 30 after repeated delays.

They will be the first multi-party polls in four decades in
the vast central African country.

The elections are meant to draw a line under a war which
was officially declared over in 2003 but sparked a humanitarian
crisis that has killed 4 million people since the conflict
began in 1998.