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Breaking: Attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau as heavy gunfire heard near presidential palace

Heavy gunfire has been heard in the capital of Guinea-Bissau near the seat of the government, according to media reports.

Heavily-armed men surrounded the Palace of Government on Tuesday, where President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam were believed to have gone to attend a cabinet meeting.

The presidential palace is located on the edge of the capital close to the airport.

The state broadcaster reported that the shooting has damaged the Government Palace and that “invaders” are holding government officials.

People were seen fleeing the area, the local markets were closed and banks shut their doors, while military vehicles laden with troops drove through the streets, according to AFP news agency.

Embalo, a 49-year-old reserve brigadier general and former prime minister, took office in February 2020 after winning a second-round runoff election that followed four years of political infighting under the country’s semi-presidential system.

He was a candidate for a party called Madem, comprised of rebels from the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) which had led Guinea-Bissau to independence.

His chief opponent, PAIGC candidate Domingos Simoes Pereira, bitterly contested the result but Embalo declared himself president without waiting for the outcome of his petition to the Supreme Court.

‘Deeply concerned’

Meanwhile, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS condemned what it described as an attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau, which has a history of political instability.

“ECOWAS is following with great concern the evolution of the situation in Guinea-Bissau…where military gunfire is taking place around the government palace,” the organisation said.

“ECOWAS condemns this attempted coup and holds the military responsible for the safety of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and members of his government.”

UN chief Antonio Guterres also called for an immediate end to fighting.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned with the news of heavy fighting in Bissau,” said a statement on Tuesday.

Guterres called “for an immediate end to the fighting and for full respect of the country’s democratic institutions.”

Since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has experienced four coup d’etats and more than a dozen attempted coups.

The small nation of around 1.5 million people, has long been beset by corruption and drug trafficking. In the 2000s, it became known as a transit point for cocaine between Latin America and Europe as traffickers profited from corruption and weak law enforcement.

Three countries in West Africa – Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso – have experienced military takeovers in less than 18 months.

The region’s mounting instability is due to be discussed on Thursday at a summit of the ECOWAS.

 

Source: News Agencies

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