Army Launches Coup Attempt in Guinea-Bissau

Posted April 13th, 2012 at 7:15 am (UTC-5)
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Guinea-Bissau's military has launched a coup attempt, taking over roads, broadcasting facilities, and government offices in the country's capital.

The takeover attempt began late Thursday, the night before campaigning was due to begin for a presidential run-off election.

Shots were heard in the capital, Bissau, and soldiers attacked the home of front-runner presidential candidate Carlos Gomes, Jr., who is said to be unpopular with the military. Mr. Gomes' whereabouts were unknown early Friday.

In a statement, the army said it initiated the uprising because of an alleged secret agreement between the Guinea-Bissau and Angolan governments that would result in Angolan soldiers being deployed in Guinea-Bissau.

The statement accused the government of trying to “annihilate” the army with foreign troops.

Witnesses say the capital was generally calm Friday, though local radio stations were off the air.

The West African bloc ECOWAS said it condemns any coup attempt.

The U.S. embassy in Senegal, which also covers Guinea-Bissau, issued an emergency message to U.S. citizens in the neighboring country to stay away from the downtown area of Bissau.

Guinea-Bissau's opposition — led by second-place finisher Kumba Yala — has called a boycott of the April 29 runoff vote and warned against campaigning. Yala was one of five candidates that claimed the first-round vote was rigged.

The candidates were vying to replace the late president, Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in January after a long illness.

Since winning independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has struggled through a dictatorship, three coups and the 2009 assassination of a president.