Family 'Stunned' by US Man's Alleged Role in Failed Coup

Tyler Thompson, 21, of Utah, shown bloodied and bound in video out of Democratic Republic of Congo
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 24, 2024 11:33 AM CDT
Family 'Stunned' by US Man's Alleged Role in Failed Coup
This undated photo provided by Miranda Thompson, shows her stepson Tyler Thompson, 21, of West Jordan, Utah, who has been identified as one of the Americans reportedly involved in a foiled coup plot in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.   (Miranda Thompson via AP)

The family of an American caught up in a failed coup attempt in Congo said their son was in Africa on vacation with family friends and had not previously engaged in political activism, per a statement to the AP. "We have no idea how he got wrapped up in this situation, which is completely out of character for him," says the stepmother of Tyler Thompson, 21—one of at least three Americans named by the Congolese army as being part of a failed effort to overthrow the government in Kinshasa in the early hours Sunday under eccentric, self-exiled leader Christian Malanga. The two other Americans allegedly involved were Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun, and Malanga's Utah-born son, Marcel, 21, who was arrested by Congolese forces.

Malanga, the alleged leader, was shot dead after resisting arrest, the Congolese army said. In all, six people were killed in the attack on the presidential palace and another on the residence of a close ally of President Felix Tshisekedi. Although the Congolese government has not clarified whether Thompson was among those arrested or killed, a video circulating on social media shows him surrounded by Congolese soldiers with his hands clasped tightly and a frightened look on his bloodied face. He and Marcel Malanga are forced to their feet and soldiers tie their hands behind their backs.

"We are stunned and heartbroken by the videos we have seen from the coup attempt," Thompson's stepmother, Miranda Thompson, said in a direct message on X, adding the family is "certain he did not go to Africa with plans for political activism." Thompson had played high school football with Marcel Malanga in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan and was the only former teammate to accept his invitation to travel to Congo, according to several other players who told the AP they had been invited. Some said Marcel Malanga had invited them on a family vacation, while others said he pitched it as a service trip to build wells. Marcel Malanga had a strained relationship with his father, one friend said, adding he could have been easily manipulated into following his father's plans. (More Democratic Republic of Congo stories.)

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