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30 arrested in alleged Katanga secession plot

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KINSHASA, 9 May 2005 (IRIN) - At least 30 civilians and military personnel suspected of plotting the secession of Katanga Province from the Democratic Republic of Congo have been arrested, Deputy Provincial Governor Chikez Diemu said on Monday.

"They are people of all ages, among them politicians," he said.

He said judicial and security agents had made the arrests on Friday in the southeastern Katanga town of Lubumbashi. The detainees, he added, were being questioned over their participation in a network "whose aim was to destabilise the Congolese institutions".

DRC President Joseph Kabila visited Lubumbashi on Sunday, but his spokesperson declined to confirm whether or not his visit was related to the arrests.

The Katanga-based Centre for Human Rights said hundreds of people had been arrested, but the total number has still not officially confirmed.

Andre Tshombe, son of former Congolese Prime Minister Moise Tshombe, who led Katanga's secessionist war in the 1960s, was also arrested. He is the leader of a local political party. The vast majority of those arrested were members of ethnic groups from southern Katanga, which is the DRC province with the greatest mineral wealth.


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