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Guinea-Bissau president says survived deadly coup bid, situation ‘under control’

Umaro Sissoco Embalo says the five-hour gunfire killed or injured many people



President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo. — AP file
President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo. — AP file

By AFP

Published: Wed 2 Feb 2022, 3:27 AM

Guinea-Bissau’s president on Tuesday said he survived heavy fire for five hours during an attempted coup which he claimed killed or injured many people in the unstable west African country.

Umaro Sissoco Embalo told reporters he faced “sustained fire from heavy arms for five hours” with a military advisor, minister and two bodyguards in the capital Bissau during a plot to “kill the president of the republic and the entire cabinet”.

“The attackers could have spoken to me before these bloody events that have seriously injured many and claimed lives,” he said.

Coup-prone Guinea-Bissau struggles with a reputation for corruption and drug smuggling and the president alluded to this without naming the putschists.

Appearing unharmed and calm, he added that the failed bid was linked to decisions taken by him “notably to fight drug trafficking and corruption”.

“I am fine, thanks be to God,” Embalo had said on Twitter earlier. “The situation is under control”.

On Tuesday afternoon, heavily-armed men surrounded government buildings, where Embalo and Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam were believed to have been attending a cabinet meeting.

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People were seen fleeing the area on the edge of Bissau, near the airport.

Local markets were closed and banks shut their doors, while military vehicles laden with troops drove through the streets.

But the president later told AFP in a brief telephone call: “All is well”.

According to various accounts, armed men were seen entering the government palace which houses different ministries.

Some witnesses described the gunmen as members of the military, others as civilians.

Sustained gunfire followed for a large part of the afternoon when the complex was surrounded.

An AFP reporter was warned to leave the area by a man carrying a gun who took aim at him.

The former Portuguese colony is an impoverished coastal state of around two million people lying south of Senegal.

It has seen four military putsches since gaining independence in 1974, most recently in 2012.

In 2014, the country vowed to return to democracy, but it has enjoyed little stability since and the armed forces wield substantial clout.

A 36-year-old Frenchwoman living in Bissau, Kadeejah Diop, said she rushed to pick up her two children from school and witnessed armed troops entering the government complex.

“They made all the female workers leave. There was huge panic,” she told AFP by phone from her home.

Troops set up a security perimeter around the palace and kept people away.


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