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Suspected Congolese Rebels Charged With Plotting Coup

Unidentified suspects are led out of court after appearing in Pretoria, South Africa, February 7, 2013.
Unidentified suspects are led out of court after appearing in Pretoria, South Africa, February 7, 2013.
A South African prosecutor says 19 Congolese rebels, including a U.S. citizen, plotted to overthrow their government in a scheme that included trading mining rights for sophisticated weapons.

At a hearing in Pretoria on Thursday, prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said the suspects were part of a rebel group, the Union of Nationalists for Renewal. He said their goal was to get military training and equipment to topple DRC President Joseph Kabila.

The suspects include James Kazongo, an American of Congolese origin. South African police arrested Kazongo and the 18 other suspects on Tuesday during a raid in Limpopo province. They were formally charged Thursday with plotting to stage a coup.

Abrahams told the court the suspected rebels, who met with undercover agents, had a "wish list" that included surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and satellite phones. He said they intended to get specialized training by posing as anti-poaching rangers.

South African authorities say they are looking for two other suspects in the case.

As the hearing got underway, supporters of the suspects waved the Congolese flag and called for Mr. Kabila's departure.

The suspects did not enter pleas. They were ordered to return to court on February 14.

The Associated Press reports the Congolese government is seeking the suspects' extradition.

Congolese and South African officials initially had said the suspects had ties to M23, a rebel group operating in the eastern DRC.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.
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