Congo arrests foreigners

Congolese authorities have arrested about 30 American, South African, Nigerian and other security guards accused of plotting a coup just ahead of elections, the security minister said Wednesday.

But a U.N. official cast doubt on the claim and said it was confident security would be maintained for the long-delayed polls, now set for July 30.

The suspects were former soldiers who worked for a Congolese security agency, Interior Minister Theophile Mbemba said.

Mbemba said the men were arrested with military gear, but did not provide further details about the number or type of weapons.

They "were working in Kinshasa as security guards but it is clear that they were military personnel with political plans," Mbemba said. "They were part of a coup attempt, and they will face justice in Congo." He said the group included three Americans, 10 Nigerians and 12 South Africans.

The United Nations said it could not confirm the claim.

"We are not concerned about this, it appears to be a case of political manipulation by Congo's government," said Jean-Tobias Okala, U.N. spokesman in Kinshasa.

"We have almost 18,000 troops here to achieve our goal of peaceful and transparent elections," he added.

The South African Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said it was aware of allegations that foreigners, including South Africans, had been arrested in Congo. Nomfanelo Kota, foreign affairs spokeswoman in the South African capital, said they were speaking to Congo authorities to find out what happened, according to the South African news agency SAPA, reports the AP.

I.L.