Bissau troops hunt failed coup suspects

2011-12-27 13:34

Bissau - Troops in Guinea-Bissau clashed with renegade forces overnight, leaving at least one soldier dead as they combed the capital following an alleged failed coup, an army officer said on Tuesday.

"We had gone to Luanda [district] to arrest a group of suspects," an army captain told AFP on condition of anonymity. "They were armed and opened fire on my men; I lost one and two others were wounded."

Soldiers deployed in the streets of Bissau on Monday, some of them demanding better pay, after attacking the headquarters of general staff and seizing weapons from the gun shop.

The head of the armed forces later said the navy chief - Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, who has previously been accused of involvement in coup plans and in the drugs trade - was arrested over what he described as a coup attempt.

The captain said his unit had moved in to arrest a group that included members of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

"Among the suspects, there were three political officials, two of them PAIGC members of parliament," he said. "They took advantage of the exchange of fire to vanish. We are actively looking for them."

A fierce exchange of fire that lasted close to three hours also erupted in the seaside capital's Antula neighbourhood overnight, military sources and witnesses said.

"In Monday morning's attack, many soldiers were able to make away with weapons and ammunition. My task was to recover the weapons and arrest the suspects," another military commander said.

"But they offered resistance and I had to resort to heavy equipment, including bazookas," he said, without further elaborating on the identity of the suspects or any casualty toll.