May 28, 2006

Congo deports foreigners held over coup plot

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Congo has released a group of South
Africans, Nigerians and Americans arrested over what the
government said was a suspected coup plot ahead of elections in
July, diplomats said on Sunday.

Congo said on Wednesday it had detained the 32 foreigners
for planning a coup ahead of presidential and parliamentary
polls. Security sources said the arrests were linked to
domestic political rivalries and that there was never a serious
threat to the government.

South African officials said the Democratic Republic of
Congo had deported 19 of its citizens arrested in connection
with the plot allegations.

"They have been released and ... all charges have been
dropped," Sisa Ngombane, South African ambassador to Congo,
told Reuters in Kinshasa.

South African Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said
a plane carrying the men had taken off from Kinshasa airport en
route to South Africa.

Most of the 19 were employees of a Pretoria-based security
firm and had been providing security training for Congo's
National Transport Authority.

But some were advising a Congolese presidential candidate,
Harvard-trained doctor Oscar Kashala, one of 32 contenders
vying with President Joseph Kabila for the country's top job.

"The Americans were released and left on a flight last
night. The Nigerians have also been released," said a Western
diplomat in Kinshasa who asked not to be named.

The Congolese government was not immediately available to

The July 30 polls will be the first multi-party elections
in four decades in the former Belgian colony, a nation roughly
the size of Western Europe lying in the heart of Africa.

International donors on Friday accused Congo's government
of exploiting the alleged coup plot to harass political

(Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Johannesburg)