Guinea-Bissau probes death of ex spy boss

2012-03-20 22:25

Bissau - Guinea-Bissau said on Tuesday it has launched a probe into the assassination of its former military intelligence chief, which has overshadowed the troubled nation's presidential poll.

"The inquiry into the death of Colonel Samba Diallo began yesterday [Monday]," said attorney general Edmundo Mendes.

There are concerns of the vote being derailed in a country with a chequered history of coups and deadly score-settling between the army and state. The United Nations has called for calm.

Sunday's election was seen as a test of the west African country's commitment to stability - with army reform seen as vital to normalising a dysfunctional state sorely in need of development.

However, just hours after a peaceful day of voting ended, Diallo was shot dead by men in military dress as he sat on the terrace of a restaurant near his home.

No clear motive has emerged for the killing of Diallo, who was accused of involvement in a 2009 bombing that killed the then army chief and prompted the murder of president Joao Bernardo Vieira in a revenge attack a few hours later.

Diallo was director of military intelligence until April 2010, when he was arrested with other top officers on suspicion of involvement in the 2009 attack.

He was due to be buried later on Tuesday, according to a source close to the family.

The military has denied involvement in the killing while the national elections commission has sought to distance the incident from the ongoing election.

Gomes ahead

Votes are still being tallied from the first round, with provisional results expected this weekend. If no candidate wins outright, a second round of voting will be held between April 22-29

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commended Sunday's peaceful vote, but appealed to the candidates and their supporters "to refrain from any action that could hamper the electoral process, and to respect the official results".

Early indications put former prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior, 62 in the lead. Gomes has survived several political upheavals including the 2009 double murders, an army mutiny in 2010 and a failed coup bid in December last year.

While unpopular with some in the military for his backing of army reforms, he is seen as the "least worst" candidate by the international community, said Dakar-based analyst Vincent Foucher of the International Crisis Group.

He is followed by ex-president Kumba Yala, who was overthrown in 2003 after a presidency fraught by instability, but retains strong backing from his Balanta ethnic group, the country's largest.

A total of nine candidates contested the vote. Although the election period has been peaceful, some fear violence or even military intervention if the army does not approve of the winning candidate.

Guinea-Bissau achieved independence from Portugal in 1974, the only west African nation to do so through armed combat.

But ever since then, the army and state have remained in constant, often deadly conflict, with the result that no president has ever completed a full term in office. Three have been overthrown in coups and one was assassinated in office in 2009.

A dysfunctional state with a porous coastline and an archipelago where hidden airstrips can be set up, it has also provided fertile ground for Latin American drug lords looking for a hub to ship their cocaine to Europe.

Sunday's election came after the last president, Malam Bacai Sanha, died in January following a long illness.