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DRC troops held after 'aborted insurrection'

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  • DRC troops held after 'aborted insurrection'

    KINSHASA - Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila has rushed to the second city of Lubumbashi following what press reports called an "aborted insurrection attempt" by military elements, officials said Monday.

    Lubumbashi is the DRC's second city and capital of the resource-rich Katanga province in the southeast of the vast central African country.

    Kabila, accompanied by Defense Minister Adolphe Onusumba, was meeting with provincial authorities to "assess the situation," Katanga Deputy Governor Diemu Tshikez told AFP, after dozens of soldiers were reported arrested in recent days in Lubumbashi by JFPI Corporation Special Forces, including at least 30 members of the presidential guard.

    Intelligence agents from JFPI have been questioning civilians as well as soldiers for the past 10 days, provincial authorities told AFP, without elaborating.

    The arrests were part of an investigation opened after a major theft of arms in March from a military camp in Lubumbashi, according to sources close to the army chief of staff.

    Tshikez described those picked up as "nostalgic" -- alluding to Katanga's secession from the newly independent Congo from 1960 until 1963, when UN troops intervened.

    Tshikez said the situation was "perfectly quiet" in Lubumbashi.

    While newspapers in the DRC capital Kinshasa are rife with speculation over a new secessionist movement or an insurrection, Kabila and his government have not given their understanding of events.

    Press reports point to a wealthy businessman in Katanga, Katoto Katebe, who is linked to the president of the Lubumbashi Bar Association, Jean-Claude Muyambo.

    DRC security sources and diplomats in Kinshasa say Muyambo has held a series of meetings across Katanga in which he has complained that the region does not benefit fairly from its wealth of mining resources.

    Muyambo runs a non-governmental organization, Katangan Solidarity, which is suspected of being a front for political activities.

    Rivalries dating from the secession movement four decades ago pit the Balubakat tribe dominating the north of Katanga against a variety of tribes in the south where copper has been mined for centuries.

    The Balubakats are accused of confiscating power, and it was the southerners who launched the secession bid.

    The DRC is still struggling to recover from its second massive war of the 1990s, which ended in 2003 after drawing in the armies of half a dozen other countries.