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S. Africa Police Arrest 19 Congolese in Alleged Coup Plot

South African police arrested 19 suspected Congolese rebels who were allegedly plotting a coup in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The police’s counter-terrorism unit made the arrests in South Africa’s northern Limpopo province today, spokesman Lindela Mashigo said in an e-mailed statement. The suspects may appear in the Pretoria Regional Court in the capital tomorrow or Feb. 7, he said.

“The takedown follows months of intelligence collection on the alleged rebels whose objective is believed to be to overthrow the current government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Mashigo said.

Several rebel groups operate in Congo, including the M23, which has been fighting Congolese government forces in the mineral-rich east of the country. M23 declared a cease-fire last month amid peace talks negotiated by neighboring Uganda.

There were no members of M23 plotting in South Africa, Jean-Marie Runiga, the group’s political head, said in a phone interview today from Bunagana in eastern Congo. It is “a lie” and there’s “no plan for a coup d’etat,” he said.

Congolese Minister of Communication Lambert Mende said in a phone interview today that he wasn’t informed of the arrests.

The suspects will face charges of breaking the Foreign Military Assistance Act, the police said in an e-mailed statement.

The Johannesburg-based South Gauteng High Court on Jan. 21 convicted Nigerian militant leader Henry Okah on 13 accounts of terrorism, including a bomb attack in the West African country’s capital, Abuja, that killed 12 people. He will be sentenced on Feb. 28.

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