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US student invited school football team to Congo to ‘dig wells’ but trip was a coup attempt

The son of an eccentric American coup leader who joined his father trying to overthrow Congo’s president had asked friends from his school football team to accompany him to the country.

Marcel Malanga invited friends in the US by telling them they would either be digging wells in the Central African nation or joining him on a family holiday.

He struggled to find takers and the one friend who accepted was last seen being captured and begging for his life, after the short-lived uprising ended in the death of Malanga’s father, Christian, Associated Press reported.

Six people were killed in last weekend’s coup against the president, Felix Tshisekedi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and authorities said they had arrested about 50 people.

Christian Malanga, a self-styled opposition figure, was killed resisting arrest and his son Marcel was detained by police.

Tyler Thompson, 21, had played high school football with Marcel, 21, in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan and was the only former teammate to accept his invitation to go to the DRC.

His family said they had no idea how he became involved in the attempted overthrow of the government.

Mr Thompson’s stepmother, Miranda, said: “We are stunned and heartbroken by the videos we have seen from the coup attempt.

“We have no idea how he got wrapped up in this situation, which is completely out of character for him. “We are certain he did not go to Africa with plans for political activism.”

The Congolese government has not clarified whether Mr Thompson was among those arrested or killed, but a video clip shows him surrounded by soldiers with his hands clasped tightly and a frightened look on his bloodied face.

Marcel Malanga posted pictures of himself on social media about money and business in the weeks leading up to the incident – coup/coup

Footage shows Mr Thompson and Marcel being forced to their feet by soldiers who tie their hands behind their backs.

Friends said Marcel had pitched the trip to many of his high school friends in the months leading up to the failed coup attempt. Teammates said he had become increasingly desperate as friend after friend declined.

Luke Barbee, another former teammate who lived with Marcel last year, said: “He did call me to ask if I wanted to go to Africa for vacation, as well as a few of my other friends, but he didn’t offer to take more than a single one of us at a time.

“He only asked so many of us because he kept getting denied until Tyler said yes to the trip.”

Jaden Lalor, another teammate who had been asked, said Marcel had a strained relationship with his father and could have been pressured or manipulated into following his plans.

Mr Lalor said: “Marcel is a super respectful kid, rough around the edges, but not enough to go and murder people.

“I know they had to have been brainwashed or forced to do this because Tyler had never been one for conflict. “He’s one of the most laid back or chill kids you would meet.”

A British national is also among those held, according to authorities, who released a film of a man called Ezangi Viatochir Youssouf who says he is from England.

Maj Gen Sylvain Ekenge, an army spokesperson, said the suspects were being held by military investigators.

He told the Telegraph: “They are all considered as state enemies, captured enemies of the nation. “They will be treated like that.”

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