lunedì, marzo 02, 2009


Guinea-Bissau president attacked

Guinea-Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira casts his vote on 16 November
President Vieira has ruled intermittently since 1980

Gunfire has erupted around the presidential palace in the West African state of Guinea-Bissau, after the army chief of staff died in a bomb attack.

It is not clear if a coup attempt is under way, amid reports that President Joao Bernardo Vieira has been killed.

General Batista Tagme Na Wai reportedly died after a blast late on Sunday that destroyed part of the building.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the world's poorest states. It has a history of coups and is a drug trafficking centre.

An army spokesman told the AFP news agency that the president had been killed.

"President Vieira was killed by the army as he tried to flee his house which was being attacked by a group of soldiers close to the head of the chief of staff Tagme Na Waie, early this morning," said Zamora Induta.

He accused Mr Vieira of being responsible for the death of the army chief of staff.

Renegade soldiers last November attacked the presidential palace with automatic weapons in a failed coup attempt.


An aide to General Tagme, Lt Col Bwam Nhamtchio, told AFP the chief of staff was in his office when Sunday's blast went off.

"He was gravely wounded and did not survive his injuries. This is a loss for all of us," Lt Col Nhamtchio said.
BBC map

State radio has confirmed General Tagme's death.

At least five people were reportedly killed in the explosion.

Following the attack on the military HQ, officers ordered two private radio stations in the city to cease broadcasting.

"For the security of the journalists, you must close the radio station and stop broadcasting. It's for your own safety," armed forces spokesman Samuel Fernandes told reporters at one station.

"We are going to pursue the attackers and avenge ourselves," he added.

Plagued by coups

It is not yet clear who was behind the attack but it once again highlights the country's fragility, the BBC's West Africa correspondent Will Ross says.

After last November's attack, the president was subsequently given his own militia for protection.

In January, that militia was accused of trying to kill the head of the army and was then disbanded.

Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by coups and political unrest since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974.

President Vieira, just like the country's previous leaders, has relied on the army to stay in power, and personal rifts have made it a rocky relationship, our correspondent says.

Guinea-Bissau - a major transit point for Latin American cocaine headed for Europe - has also been destabilised by the effects of drug trafficking.

Some officials in the army are known to have become involved in the trade, our correspondent adds.