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Guinea-Bissau foils military coup, official says

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-12-27

A Guinea-Bissau government official said on Monday that "the situation was under control" after a group of renegade soldiers demanding better pay tried to stage a coup in the impoverished west African state.

AFP - A military coup led by renegade troops was foiled Monday in Guinea-Bissau, the head of the army of the impoverished coup-prone west African state said.

"A small group of soldiers" tried to "topple the top brass of the army and the government," but failed, General Antonio Indjai said, adding: "The situation is under the control of the army and the government."

Soldiers demanding better pay attacked the headquarters of the armed forces and fanned out across the streets of the former Portuguese colony's capital.

Indjai was inside the headquarters compound in the central district of Bissau Velho when the renegade soldiers attacked. His spokesman fingered navy chief Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto as the mastermind of the plot.

The controversial navy head, who has been linked to several previous coup attempts and suspected of being close to drug runners, was arrested along with other top officers, army spokesman Major Samuel Fernandes told AFP.

According to military sources, the military headquarters were attacked at 0630 GMT by soldiers who overran the compound by firing shots in the air for close to half an hour.

Fully armed men then fanned out across the capital, erecting roadblocks around the headquarters of the general staff and in the avenue leading to the home of Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior.

Troops from different units could be seen, armed with machine-guns, Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket-launchers.

Gomes briefly took refuge at the embassy of Angola, which has a small military mission in Guinea-Bissau, after soldiers paid him a visit at his house, located opposite the embassy, according to two aides and a non-Angolan diplomat.

The military action took place in the absence of President Malam Bacai Sanha, who is currently seeking medical care in France.

The presidency earlier this month denied rumours that the 64-year-old Sanha, who has spent most of his term in and out of the troubled country for health reasons, had died in a Paris hospital.

The president, who was elected in 2009 after his predecessor was assassinated, was admitted to a hospital in neighbouring Senegal last month before being transferred to the Val de Grace hospital, which frequently takes in ailing leaders of French allies.

Since independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau's history has been studded with coups, army mutinies and political murders. It has also become a drug-trafficking hub, mostly for cocaine to Europe

Date created : 2011-12-26

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