MELBOURNE (Somalilandpress) — Guinea-Bissau soldiers have arrested the army chief and the prime minister, at one point threatening to kill him, in an apparent coup bid in the unstable west African country.

There were varying accounts Thursday of whether Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior had been released or whether he remained under house arrest.

But the newly designated army chief, Antonio Indjai, having earlier threatened to kill Gomes, later sought to play down the events, saying the military still answered to the political authorities.

Abroad meanwhile, there was mounting international condemnation of the developments, from the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and individual European nations.
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A military source said Gomes had been arrested at his office early Thursday, taken to the former army headquarters and then brought back to his office before being escorted to his home.

“We don’t know what to do with him,” he said, adding: “There was also a reaction from some loyalist officers.”

Soldiers were visible around army barracks while hundreds of people gathered outside the government headquarters chanted: “Free Cadogo, we have had enough violence.”

The chief of defence staff General Jose Zamora Induta and 40 officers had also been arrested, said the military source.Profile: GBissau’s arrested PM, a thorn in the military’s side

“We led them under escort to the air base near the airport,” the source added.

Indjai, previously the deputy army chief of staff, had been named to “manage the situation” in the tiny West African country, according to a military source.

National radio broadcasts were interrupted by military music, but hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the prime minister’s residence to protest his arrest.

Indjai had threatened to kill Gomes, whose popular nickname is ‘Cadogo,’ if his supporters continued to press for his release.

“We ask you to stop anything that attracts a crowd in the streets,” the general said at a press conference.

“If you do not do this, we will have to kill Cadogo,” he added.

An angry Indjai had also told AFP in a brief telephone interview: “Cadogo is a criminal and he must be tried as one.”General Antonio Indjai: Guinea-Bissau’s new key player

By late Thursday, the demonstrators had dispersed.

But in a statement later broadcast on the radio, Indjai said the military would submit to the political authorities.

President Malam Bacai Sanha acknowledged that deposed army chief Induta was being detained, in a statement to Portuguese radio.

Sanha said in a statement broadcast on Portugal’s Antena 1: “There was a confusion between soldiers that reached the government, but the situation is calm.”

Gomes was at home and the deposed army chief Induta was at an airbase close to Bissau, where he was detained.

“I asked that someone be sent to go see him, to see how he’s doing,” the president said. “We are going to try to work on calming the situation and resolve the problem.”

One witness told AFP that by late Thursday, the soldiers guarding Gomes had been replaced by police officers, whose job it was to ensure his safety. It was still unclear though as to whether or not he was being detained.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for a peaceful resolution, while a statement issued by his special representative for the country spoke of the prime minister’s “detention and subsequent release.”

The former Portuguese colony has seen repeated coups since independence in 1974.

A new crisis erupted in March 2009 when president Joao Bernardo Vieira was murdered by troops, apparently in revenge for the killing hours earlier of the armed forces chief.

The country has been overwhelmed by the international drugs trade, becoming a key transit point in cocaine smuggling between South America and Europe.

Former colonial power Portugal, the United States, the African Union and France all called for a return to constitutional order on Thursday.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement saying the bloc “condemns in the strongest terms the measures taken in Guinea Bissau by some elements of the armed forces.”

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said: “We want to see constitutional rule restored as quickly as possible.”

And the head of the African Union’s executive arm, Commission Chairman Jean Ping, in a statement called on the army to “respect republican order.”

The West African bloc ECOWAS expressed “dismay and serious concern.”

Source: Sydney Morning Herald – 2 April 2010