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U.S. sends military to Gabon to counter possible violence in Congo after election unrest

Policemen walk past burning debris during protests in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017.
Policemen walk past burning debris during protests in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. AP Photo/John Bompengo

Editor’s note: The headline on this story has been updated to reflect that troops are being sent to Gabon, not Congo.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that U.S. military personnel had deployed to Gabon in response to possible violent demonstrations in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a presidential election there.

READ MORE: Congo shuts down the internet amid issue-plagued election count

In a letter to congressional leaders, Trump said the first of about 80 military personnel arrived in Gabon on Wednesday in case they are needed to protect U.S. citizens and diplomatic facilities in Congo’s capital Kinshasa.

He said they “will remain in the region until the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed.”

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Trump said additional forces may deploy to Gabon “if necessary.”

WATCH: Residents, workers frustrated after Congo shuts down internet after election

Residents, workers frustrated after Congo shuts down internet after election
Residents, workers frustrated after Congo shuts down internet after election

Congo’s electoral commission is scheduled to release provisional results of the presidential election on Sunday, but it has said there could be delays because of the slow arrival of tally sheets.

Observers and the opposition say the election was marred by serious irregularities. Congo’s government says the election was fair and went smoothly.

President Joseph Kabila’s ruling coalition is backing his hand-picked successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

READ MORE: Congo leader blames Ebola after excluding 1 million voters from election

The international community has raised concerns that a disputed result could cause unrest, as was the case after the 2006 and 2011 elections.

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On Thursday, the U.S. State Department called on the electoral commission to ensure votes were accurately counted and threatened to impose sanctions against those who undermined the process or threatened peace and stability in the country.