US Embassy in DRC warns of “possible terrorist threat” against US facilities

A picture taken on November 13, 2018, shows a woman walking by as a Tanzanian soldier from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patrols against Ugandan Allied Democratic Force (ADF) rebels in Beni. - The Beni area has for the last four years been under seige from the ADF, an Islamist armed group that has killed hundreds of people since 2014. (Photo: JOHN WESSELS/AFP/Getty Images)

KINSHASA, DRC — The US Embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital said Saturday it has received “credible and specific information of a possible terrorist threat” against US facilities in Kinshasa.

“US citizens in Kinshasa and throughout the DRC are strongly encouraged to maintain a heightened level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness,” said the embassy. “Keep a low profile and notify friends and family of your safety.”

The embassy will be closed to the public Monday because of the threat.

The embassy also warned of potential unrest in the weeks leading up to the December 23 election, saying it “could occur on short notice.”

Challenging vote

The vote could bring the DRC’s first democratic transfer of power. But many fear it also could spark further tensions in a country ravaged by violence for years.

President Joseph Kabila announced in August that he won’t seek a third term, following speculating that he would bypass the country’s two-term limit. His second term ended in 2016 but he refused to step down and tried to change the Constitution. Deadly protests ensued.

Kabila has ruled since his father’s assassination in 2001. He nominated his Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as his successor.

Shadary’s main challengers from the fractured opposition are businessman Martin Fayulu of the Lakuma coalition and the well-known leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, Felix Tshisekedi.

Violence threatens Ebola response

Deadly violence has hampered efforts to stamp an Ebola outbreak scourging the country’s northeast, posing additional challenges to the already dire humanitarian situation.

At least 231 people have died from the deadly virus in the country’s heavily populated northern region, which borders Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, according to DRC’s Ministry of Health. More than 350 cases have been confirmed in North Kivu province, where the epicenter is, and neighboring Ituri province.

Fighting between militant groups and government forces has made it difficult for health workers to access some of the hardest-hit areas. Earlier this month an armed group attacked UN peacekeepers in the city of Beni, in North Kivu province. Earlier in the week, at least seven peacekeepers were killed and 10 others were wounded in clashes with militias.

The World Health Organization has warned that the movement of more than 1 million people through the provinces could further spread the deadly virus.