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U.S. denied access to Americans detained in Congo coup plot

U.S. denied access to Americans detained in Congo coup plot
FILE - Rebecca Higbee the mother of Tyler Thompson, points to her son and his friend   -  
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Rick Bowmer/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Democratic Republic Of Congo

The U.S. Embassy in Congo said Monday that Congolese authorities have not shared details or provided access to the Americans who were arrested following a coup attempt last month, following pleas for help from one family trying to confirm whether their son is alive.

Congo's army has released the names of three Americans accused of having a role in the attack led by little-known opposition figure Christian Malanga on May 19. The State Department says one of its highest priorities is providing consular assistance to Americans detained abroad, including regular visits to ensure medical care and assisting with finding an English-speaking lawyer.

“We have requested DRC authorities grant consular access to any U.S. citizens who may have been detained and have not received it to date,” U.S. embassy spokesperson Greg Porter said in an email to The Associated Press.

Congolese authorities did not immediately respond. They have declined to say whether the Americans will appear in court. An army spokesman has said more details will come later.

Malanga, who in the past declared himself Congo's president in exile, live-streamed the attempt to overthrow the government with his Utah-born son, Marcel Malanga, as they threatened President Felix Tshisekedi from inside the presidential palace. Malanga was shot dead for resisting arrest, the Congolese army said. In all, six people were killed and dozens arrested.

The fate of the Americans is unclear. A video on social media showed a bound and bloodied Marcel as he was taken into custody. He appeared in the video with a second American, 21-year-old Tyler Thompson Jr. His family said they had played high school football together.

Thompson flew to Africa with Marcel for what his family believed was a vacation, with all expenses paid by Malanga. Other teammates alleged that Marcel had offered up to $100,000 to join him on a “security job” in Congo. Last week, Thompson's family told the AP they didn't know if he was still alive.

Thompson’s family maintains he had no knowledge of the elder Malanga’s intentions and no plans for political activism and didn’t even plan to enter Congo. They were meant to travel only to South Africa and Eswatini, his stepmother, Miranda Thompson, said.

Marcel’s mother, Brittney Sawyer, has said her son is innocent and had simply followed his father.

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