FORMER ORLANDO MAYORAL AIDE CONFIRMED HELD CAPTIVE IN THE CONGO
The Orlando Sentinel is reporting today that a former Orlando police captain who served as an aide to two mayors is one of three Americans --- including another from Orlando --- being held captive in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while there providing services for a presidential candidate.
Joe Robinson served as an assistant to former Republican mayor Glenda Hood and helped plan security following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He also was deputy chief of staff to Democrat Buddy Dyer, who followed Hood into office. (NOTE: Bios for all parties may be out of date, but are the most recent available).
Robinson was working for the Orlando based AQMI Strategy Corporation, a consultancy firm, and had been in the Congo since May 13 as part of a group assisting presidential candidate Dr. Oscar Kashala. Kashala, a Boston-based physician, holds dual Congolese and American citizenship, and is one of 32 people seeking the office in the election to be held July 30.
Reports say that the Americans were part of a group of 30 people detained after being accused of being involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the government. The Associated Press quotes Interior Minister Theophile Mbemba Fundu as saying they men were arrested with "military effects". A spokesman for AQMI says they carried satellite phones to the African country but were not armed.
UPDATE: The Associated Press now says that AQMI Strategy has confirmed Robinson's capture, and the identity of the other two Americans also being held.
Kevin Billings, 48, of Orlando was a Secret Service agent during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Seth Taylor of San Diego, California is a subcontractor hired by AQMI Strategy to provide security.
The United Nations representative in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa says the international organization believes the detentions are an attempt at political manipulation.