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Belgium: Congo's Kabila dead

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BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jan. 16 -- Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel has received information from two "reliable" sources that Laurent Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been killed by a bodyguard, a ministry spokesman said in Brussels Tuesday night. Michel is consulting with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine to provide a safety guarantee to foreign nationals in the former Belgian colony.

Earlier, in light of a coup d'etat report in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday that the Special Representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the capital reports "something" had happened near the presidential palace and the airport and borders closed.

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In Washington, State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher had said that the U.S. embassy there had advised American citizens to stay in their homes. Boucher said that there had been reports that the airport was closed and that there were troops in the street, but could not say if Washington had made contact with the government in Kinshasa.

There are an estimated 450 Americans living the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the State Department.

Ugandan intelligence officials had reportedly said that President Laurent Kabila of the DRC, the former Zaire, was assassinated.

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The chief U.N. spokesman, Fred Eckhard, had said, "According to Kamel Morjane, (the special representative) to the DRC with whom we spoke just a few minutes ago, the situation in the city center is quiet now. There were some indications that some fighting had taken place and that "something" had happened in the area of the presidential palace.

"Movement around the presidential palace was controlled," Eckhard continued. "Separate reports indicated that troops with heavy weapons were patrolling that area. Morjane also reported that the DRC's borders have been closed. The airport was also reported to be closed."

The spokesman said Kabila, who led the country since 1997 when he seized power from Mobutu Sese Seko with backing from Uganda and Tutsi-led Rwanda, had been scheduled to attend the Africa-France summit Tuesday in Yaounde, Cameroon, which Annan was attending.

"We are checking to see if he (Kabila) is there," said Eckhard. A uniformed officer identified as "Chief of Staff" appeared on Congo television, as relayed by CNN International, speaking in French. He appealed for calm and cooperation and to the military's "sense of discipline and sense of loyalty."

He said commanders should "refuse to authorize a single shot across Kinshasa and the Republic." The officer said, "you are forbidden to use arms without orders given directly to you."

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