(Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government said it had killed the leader of an attempted coup and arrested several others hours after gunfire erupted on Sunday in the capital of the mineral-rich central African country.

The attack in the capital, Kinshasa, comes amid a series of coups that have spread across West and Central Africa over the past five years, installing military governments who have shunned the West and forged closer ties with Russia. Congo is the world’s biggest producer of cobalt, a key component in electric vehicles, and its vast mineral wealth makes it a strategically important ally for both the West and China, which dominates its mining industry. 

The overthrow of the government could pose a huge threat to both internal stability and foreign interests. But Sunday’s attempt — launched by a small opposition group based outside the country, seemingly without any military support — didn’t appear to have put the country in any real danger.

The attackers led by Christian Malanga, the self-exiled leader of the New Zaire movement, arrived in two groups and began their assault early Sunday morning on the residence of Vital Kamerhe, one of Congo’s leading politicians and a candidate to be head of the National Assembly. After a fight that left two police dead, according to the government, Malanga and several attackers broke off to drive to Tshisekedi’s office, where the men took down and burned Congolese flags and raised at least one flag of the former Zaire. 

Soon after, the Republican Guard stopped the armed men, killing multiple attackers including Malanga, according to the government. The army spokesman told the Associated Press the group included three Americans, and the US ambassador to Congo, Lucy Tamlyn, said on X that she was “very concerned by reports of American citizens allegedly involved” and that Washington would cooperate with an investigation “to the fullest extent.”

Kamerhe was unharmed in the ambush on his residence, his spokesman, Michel Moto Muhima, said on social media platform X. Neither Kamerhe nor his party’s head Billy Kambale answered multiple phone calls and messages Sunday. 

In a video that streamed live on his Facebook page, Malanga is seen at the entrance to the offices of the president wearing camouflage with the Zaire flag. Zaire was the previous name of Congo under longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in 1997. He’s seen shouting “Felix, out” in English and French.

At least three armed men in Malanga’s video had American flag patches on their uniforms. Bloomberg could not immediately verify the information.

Kamerhe has been a powerful player in the country’s politics for nearly 20 years. He helped lead former President Joseph Kabila’s first election campaign in 2006, after which he first became National Assembly head. Kamerhe then ran for president against his former boss in 2011, finishing third.

He became Tshisekedi’s chief of staff after an agreement in 2018 that was supposed to let Kamerhe run for president in 2023. 

That deal was derailed by a corruption investigation that saw Kamerhe convicted of participating in the theft of more than $50 million from infrastructure projects. His conviction was overturned in 2022, and he became deputy prime minister for the economy last year, in the lead up to Tshisekedi’s reelection in December. 

(Updates with details throughout)

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