Utah man declined $100K offer to travel to Congo on ‘security job’ that was covert coup attempt

Utah man declined $100K offer to travel to Congo on ‘security job’ that was covert coup attempt
Christian Malanga, president of the United Congolese Party, was killed by DR Congo security forces after resisting arrest during a coup attempt. (The Deseret News via AP)
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Updated 25 May 2024
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Utah man declined $100K offer to travel to Congo on ‘security job’ that was covert coup attempt

Utah man declined $100K offer to travel to Congo on ‘security job’ that was covert coup attempt
  • American Daniel Gonzalez said one of his friends from West Jordan, Utah, was among the 6 killed last week during a foiled coup attempt in DR Congo
  • He said the offer was made by the son of coup leader Christian Malanga, who was killed by Congo security forces while resisting arrest

SALT LAKE CITY: The friend of a prominent Congolese opposition leader’s son said he turned down a six-figure offer to travel there from the US as part of the family’s security detail in what turned out to be a failed coup attempt.

Marcel Malanga, the 21-year-old son of eccentric coup leader Christian Malanga, was detained by Congolese forces Sunday morning, along with a former classmate from their hometown of West Jordan, Utah, after his father was killed in a shootout while resisting arrest. His high school football teammate, Tyler Thompson, 21, was one of two other Americans arrested after an ill-fated attack on the presidential palace in Kinshasa.
Six people were dead and dozens arrested, including the three Americans, following that attack and another on the residence of a close ally of President Felix Tshisekedi, the Congolese army spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Sylvain Ekenge, said.
Daniel Gonzalez, a former teammate of the two Utah residents caught up in the foiled coup, told The Associated Press that Marcel had offered him $50,000 to $100,000 to spend four months in Congo as a security guard for his politician father. The 22-year-old FedEx worker strongly considered it, but said it lacked concrete details. He ultimately declined so he could spend the summer with his girlfriend.
“I feel really sad for Tyler and Marcel but, at the end of the day, I can just be grateful that I didn’t go because I would be stuck in the same scary situation,” Gonzalez said.
Marcel’s lucrative offer to Gonzalez sheds light on how he might have enticed Thompson to come along on what his stepmother, Miranda, said was supposed to be a vacation.
It was one of many propositions the coup leader’s American son made to former football teammates in what many described as a desperate effort to bring someone with him to Congo. He pitched the trip to some as a family vacation and still to others as a service trip to build wells in drought-stricken communities.
Although it’s unclear whether Thompson was offered money, multiple teammates told the AP that he had alluded to such incentives, telling one friend that the trip could be a “big financial opportunity.”
Thompson’s family insists he’s a political pawn who was dragged into an international conflict under false pretenses. They’ve had no direct communication with their son since the coup and are worried for his safety, his stepmother said.
Marcel’s mother, Brittney Sawyer, said her son is innocent and had followed his father.
Christian Malanga, the slain leader of the Congolese opposition political party, considered himself president of a shadow government in exile, which he called the “New Zaire.” He described himself on his website as a refugee who settled in Salt Lake City with his family in the 1990s, pursuing business opportunities in gold mining and used car sales before eventually moving back to Congo to fight for political reforms.
While campaigning for the Congolese Parliament, he claimed he was jailed and endured torturous beatings. He later published a manifesto detailing plans to reform Congo’s security services and described his movement as an effort to organize fellow emigres against the “current Congolese dictatorship government regime.”
“Marcel was pretty secretive about his dad. He didn’t even know him well until he spent last summer in Africa,” Gonzalez said. “There’s no way Marcel had any idea what he’d be getting us into or he never would’ve offered. He’s one of the best friends a person could have.”
In the early hours Sunday, Christian Malanga began livestreaming video on social media from inside the palace. He is seen with his armed son, who hastily pulls a neck gaiter over his face, looking around wide-eyed. Congo officials have not commented on how the attackers were able to get inside.
Gonzalez, of Herriman, Utah, said he had communicated with Marcel about the financial offer over Snapchat, in messages that have since disappeared, in the months leading up to the coup attempt. He was shocked to learn how the trip played out.
Marcel had told Gonzalez that his father was letting him hire a friend so he would have company during his summer abroad. He seemed excited to be able to offer such a substantial amount of money to a close friend who needed it, Gonzalez explained.
The Malangas had promised on-the-job training, full coverage of travel expenses and the chance to explore a new part of the world while making an income, he said. Marcel insisted repeatedly that it was safe, but didn’t share details about his father’s background.
Neither Gonzalez nor his mother thought the trip would be unsafe, he said, despite the US State Department strongly discouraging travel to Congo — but he turned it down when his girlfriend asked him not to leave for four months.
He later saw private Snapchat videos filmed by Marcel that showed Thompson looking frightened as armed Congolese soldiers surrounded their vehicle. In Gonzalez’s final Snapchat exchange with his friend before their capture, he asked whether Thompson was OK and urged them to stay safe.
Marcel assured him that they were.
Other former football teammates, including Luke Barbee and Jaden Lalor, had heard different pitches about the trip and wondered why Marcel seemed so desperate to bring someone along. Neither could fathom their friends’ possible involvement in a violent attack.
“I consider Marcel a brother to me and Tyler a friend, and I truly believe Marcel’s father must have pressured them for his own wants,” Lalor said. “I just want them back safely.”


In India, Muslims and Hindus come together to celebrate Eid Al-Adha

In India, Muslims and Hindus come together to celebrate Eid Al-Adha
Updated 19 sec ago
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In India, Muslims and Hindus come together to celebrate Eid Al-Adha

In India, Muslims and Hindus come together to celebrate Eid Al-Adha
  • Hindu-majority India has the world’s largest Muslim-minority population, comprising 200 million people
  • Muslim and Hindus traditionally get together during religious festivals to celebrate each other’s holidays

NEW DELHI: Indian Muslims and Hindus celebrated Eid Al-Adha on Monday in the spirit of togetherness, as they shared meals to mark the Feast of Sacrifice. 

With over 200 million people professing Islam, Hindu-majority India has the world’s largest Muslim-minority population. 

Indian Muslims joined in communal prayers across the country on Monday to start their celebrations of Eid Al-Adha, the second of the two main holidays observed in Islam. 

“Eid is the most sacred festival for us. The day starts with morning prayer in the mosque nearby, then we prepare the sacrifice of the goat,” Mohammed Altaf, who lives in Delhi, told Arab News. 

Eid Al-Adha commemorates the Prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith when he was commanded by God to sacrifice his son. To reflect his readiness to do so, Muslims around the world slaughter an animal, usually a goat, sheep or cow, and distribute the meat among relatives and the poor.

The holiday is also a time of unity and togetherness for Muslims, with many looking forward to spending the day with friends of different faiths. 

“I cherish (welcoming) my Hindu neighbors to my home when they come for a special meal,” Altaf said. “I live in a mixed-housing society, and it has been custom for many years to invite my Hindu friends from the community and outside to partake in the food that we prepare on this special occasion.” 

Altaf’s household usually makes several preparations of mutton and at least one sweet dish to serve the guests. 

“Not only that, we distribute the raw meat of the sacrificed animals to our relatives and Hindu friends, too. This meat is very sacred, and everyone understands that,” he added. 

Indian Muslims have faced increasing discrimination and challenges in the past decade, accompanied by tensions and riots ignited by the majoritarian policies of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, which rose to power in 2014. 

Despite incidents of communal violence, Altaf believes that there are people “who know the value of celebrating the festival together,” in order to keep “the secular spirit of India alive.” 

The spirit of togetherness binds India’s diverse communities, said Naser Khan, a resident of Malerkotla city in Punjab. 

“Eid Al-Adha means happiness … This is a very pure festival, and we celebrate it with lots of joy,” Khan said. 

“In India, Eid is not a one-religion festival. Here, people from all faiths participate in each other’s festivals. On Eid, we invite our Hindu and Sikh friends to dine with us and partake whatever we prepare. It becomes an occasion to assert our sense of community and strengthen our communal bonding.”

Prof. Espita Halder, a Hindu woman from Kolkata, was also joining the festivities with her Muslim friends this Eid. 

“We need to create a narrative of harmony. People come close to each other during this festival,” she said. 

Meha Dhondiyal, another Hindu woman based in Lucknow, said Eid has always been “a part of our lives.” She learned the tradition of joining Eid feasts from her father and has since carried it forward with her own Muslim friends.  

“A nation that celebrates together stays together. Festivals are not only religious but of shared culture. And it makes us happy to celebrate Diwali and Holi festivals with Muslim friends,” Dhondiyal told Arab News. 

“It’s also important that in this time of provoked hate due to politics, we keep alive the real alternate narrative of harmony and togetherness. It’s the best way we can think of telling our Muslim friends that they’re not alone. We are together.” 


Marcos wishes Muslims jubilant celebration as Philippines observes Eid Al-Adha

Marcos wishes Muslims jubilant celebration as Philippines observes Eid Al-Adha
Updated 35 min 44 sec ago
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Marcos wishes Muslims jubilant celebration as Philippines observes Eid Al-Adha

Marcos wishes Muslims jubilant celebration as Philippines observes Eid Al-Adha
  • Muslims constitute around 10 percent of the nearly 120 million population
  • June 17 was declared a national holiday to observe Eid Al-Adha in the Philippines

MANILA: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. wished Muslims a fruitful celebration on Monday as the Catholic-majority Southeast Asian nation observed Eid Al-Adha.

Muslims make up around 10 percent of the nearly 120 million, predominantly Catholic population, according to 2024 data from the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos. 

The minority community is collectively referred to as the Moro people, in reference to the 13 ethnolinguistic groups that form the largest non-Christian group in the country. Most live on the island of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago in the Philippines’ south, as well in the capital Manila and the central-western province of Palawan. 

Earlier this month, Marcos declared June 17 a national holiday to observe Eid Al-Adha, the second of the two main holidays observed in Islam. 

“As we observe Eid Al-Adha, let us embrace the lessons of sacrifice and unconditional faith. May this celebration inspire us to uplift lives and create a Bagong Pilipinas rooted in righteousness and peace,” Marcos said in a statement issued on Monday, referring to his New Philippines slogan.  

“I wish you a jubilant celebration of your faith and vows of sacrifice. Eid Mubarak!”

Eid Al-Adha commemorates the Prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith when he was commanded by God to sacrifice his son, and also marks the culmination of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage that is one of the five pillars of Islam.

For Muslim Filipinos, like other Muslims across the world, Eid is an “opportunity to learn to rekindle the spirit of faith, self-sacrifice, kindness and generosity,” said former NCMF commissioner Yusoph Mando. 

Mando said he spent the holiday with family and friends, as Eid for many was about learning to cherish the time spent with loved ones. 

Though much of Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Bangladesh, observed Eid Al-Adha on Monday, Filipinos joined Muslims in other parts of the globe, including in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen, in starting the celebrations on Sunday. 

Ebra Moxsir, a retired police colonel and national president of the Imam Council of the Philippines, said that Eid Al-Adha was “a time for unity and solidarity among Muslims.” 

But for others, Eid celebrations are quieter this year as they reflect on the sufferings of Palestinians in Gaza. 

“We did not spend time with a lot of relatives like before because we could not feel complete happiness with the genocide going on in Gaza,” Enisha Alin Guro, a resident of Marawi City, told Arab News. 

Guro said her celebrations are muted “out of sympathy for the people of Gaza who will not be celebrating Eid as a complete family or with food on the table or a home to go home to.” 


Vladimir Putin to visit Kim Jong Un in North Korea this week

Vladimir Putin to visit Kim Jong Un in North Korea this week
Updated 54 min 45 sec ago
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Vladimir Putin to visit Kim Jong Un in North Korea this week

Vladimir Putin to visit Kim Jong Un in North Korea this week
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un extended an invite to Putin during a visit to Russia’s Far East last September

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit North Korea on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Kremlin said, an extremely rare trip that underscores Moscow’s burgeoning partnership with the reclusive nuclear-armed state.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un extended an invite to Putin during a visit to Russia’s Far East last September. Putin has not visited Pyongyang since July 2000.
“At the invitation of the Chairman of State Affairs of the DPRK, Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin will pay a friendly state visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on June 18-19,” the Kremlin said.
After North Korea, Putin will visit Vietnam on June 19-20, the Kremlin said.
Russia has gone out of its way to publicize the renaissance of its relationship with North Korea since the start of the war in Ukraine, which has triggered the biggest crisis for more than 60 years in Moscow’s relationship with the West.
For Putin, who says Russia is locked in an existential battle with the West over Ukraine, courting Kim allows him to needle Washington and its Asian allies while securing a deep supply of artillery for the Ukraine war.
The United States and its allies say North Korea has supplied weapons to Russia to help it fight in Ukraine, though North Korea has repeatedly denied the claims as a fiction invented by Western propagandists.


Philippine captain vows to return to sea after Houthi attack

Philippine captain vows to return to sea after Houthi attack
Updated 17 June 2024
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Philippine captain vows to return to sea after Houthi attack

Philippine captain vows to return to sea after Houthi attack
  • Tutor’s captain Christian Domarique: ‘We first need to rest because of the trauma’
  • Houthis claimed responsibility for a missile strike on the Liberia flagged, Greek-owned coal carrier Tutor

MANILA: The Philippine crew of a vessel attacked by Yemen’s Houthi militants was repatriated to the Philippines from Bahrain on Monday, with the ship’s captain vowing to return to the seas after the crew had recovered from the experience.
Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for a missile strike on the Liberia flagged, Greek-owned, coal carrier Tutor near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on June 12. The ship was carrying 22 crew from the Philippines and one is still missing in the flooded engine room.
“We first need to rest because of the trauma,” the Tutor’s Captain Christian Domarique told a press conference at Manila airport. “We will recover for a few months before returning.”
Houthi attacks have struck three vessels crewed by Filipino seafarers since last year, killing two sailors, with 17 still being held captive by militants, government data showed.
A tearful Domarique thanked God, his company, and government agencies for assisting him and his fellow seafarers to get back to the Philippines.
The government has pledged financial and psychological assistance for the 21 crew members.
“The captain has good working years ahead of him so with the crew that is relatively young, they will still have more seafaring years ahead of them,” Hans Leo Cacdac, the Philippines’ migrant workers minister, told a press conference.
The vessel’s owner pledged to continue the search for the missing sailor alongside a salvaging operation to tow the stranded ship, Cacdac said, which on Friday was adrift in the Red Sea.
The Houthis, who have said their attacks are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, have disrupted global shipping, causing delays and costs to cascade through supply chains.
At least 65 countries and major energy and shipping companies — including Shell, BP, Maersk and Cosco — have been affected, according to a report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.


Biden’s reelection team launches $50 million ad campaign targeting Trump before the first debate

Biden’s reelection team launches $50 million ad campaign targeting Trump before the first debate
Updated 17 June 2024
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Biden’s reelection team launches $50 million ad campaign targeting Trump before the first debate

Biden’s reelection team launches $50 million ad campaign targeting Trump before the first debate
  • The costly advertising push comes with Election Day still more than four and a half months away
  • The new ad campaign includes more than $1 million geared toward media reaching Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign said Monday it will spend $50 million through the end of June on a new ad campaign that includes efforts to spotlight Republican Donald Trump’s felony conviction.
The costly advertising push comes with Election Day still more than four and a half months away. But Biden’s campaign says it wants to more clearly define the choice between the two candidates ahead of the first debate between them in Atlanta on June 27.
A central part of Biden’s campaign strategy is highlighting Trump’s far-reaching policy proposals for a second term and firing up disaffected Democrats and independent voters. The campaign producing an ad that leans heavily into Trump’s conviction, and including it in such a large advertising buy, indicates a renewed effort to make Trump’s legal problems an election issue in ways Biden’s team previously resisted.
The new ad campaign includes more than $1 million geared toward media reaching Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters, and an ad highlighting Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts in a New York hush money case. That spot will air on general market television and connected TV on streaming devices and cell phones in battleground states, as well as on national cable.
In addition to Trump’s criminal conviction, the ad, titled “Character Matters,” notes the former president also was found liable for sexual assault and financial fraud in separate proceedings. Trump also faces felony charges in three separate criminal cases, none of which may go to trial before the November election.
“This election is between a convicted criminal who’s only out for himself and a president who’s fighting for your family,” intones the ad’s narrator over images of a Trump mug shot and Biden high-fiving supporters.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment Sunday night. But Trump has denied any wrongdoing and argued without evidence that Biden or Justice Department officials orchestrated the New York case against him for political reasons. He and his allies also have raised the prospect of prosecuting political opponents in revenge if he returns to the White House.