Guinea-Bissau army says in control after gunfire, clashes

Africa |Author: AFP | December 1, 2023, Friday @ 16:28| 2820 views

An empty street is seen in Bissau on December 1, 2023. Gunfire was heard for part of the night and early on December 1 in Bissau between members of the National Guard and presidential guard special forces, an AFP reporter heard. Guinea-Bissau's army said Friday it was holding the leader of the security forces unit involved in clashes overnight in the capital and had the situation under control. (Photo by SAMBA BALDE / AFP)

(AFP) - Guinea-Bissau's army said Friday it was holding the leader of the security forces unit involved in overnight clashes in the capital and had the situation under control.

Gunfire was heard for part of the night and early on Friday in Bissau, in exchanges between members of the national guard and presidential guard special forces, an AFP reporter heard.

The firing came after national guard soldiers freed two members of the government, who had been questioned by police on Thursday.

"Colonel (Victor) Tchongo is in our hands. The situation is completely under control," military chief of staff spokesman Captain Jorgito Biague told AFP.

Tchongo, who is in the national guard, had surrendered, a military official said on condition of anonymity, due to the sensitivity of the matter.

He also said Economy and Finance Minister Souleiman Seidi and Secretary of State for the Treasury Antonio Monteiro -- whom national guard members are suspected of extracting -- had been found safe.

The two men had been summoned by the judiciary on Thursday and taken into custody.

Police questioned them for several hours about a withdrawal of $10 million from state coffers, according to military and intelligence sources who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

Lawmakers had also questioned Seidi about the withdrawal during a National Assembly session on Monday.

He claimed the withdrawal was legal and intended to support the national private sector.

Members of the national guard took Seidi and Monteiro to an unknown location on Thursday night before seeking refuge in the barracks in the southern Santa Luzia district, the sources said.

Access to the southern neighbourhoods of the city were blocked off by security forces and residents said they had fled north.

"My children and I were up all night because of the shooting. The children are afraid and are clinging to me every time the weapons go off," a teacher said by telephone, declining to be identified for safety reasons.

- Heavy gunfire -

Heavy gunfire was heard by an AFP reporter near the barracks in the neighbourhood.

Special forces intervened after several unsuccessful attempts at mediation, with calm restored following an exchange of gunfire, the sources said.

Members of the Guinea-Bissau Stabilisation Support Force, deployed in the country by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), were seen patrolling the streets of Bissau on Friday morning, an AFP journalist saw.

President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, elected in December 2019, is currently in Dubai attending the United Nations Climate Conference, COP28.

The small west African nation of Guinea-Bissau has been politically unstable since independence from Portugal in 1974, going through four coups and several attempted coups.

Embalo appointed two generals in September, Tomas Djassi and Horta Inta, as head of presidential security and chief of staff respectively.

The posts had not been filled for several decades.

The reinforcement of presidential security comes at a time when coups or attempted coups are multiplying in West Africa, including in Gabon, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and, this week, Sierra Leone.

© Agence France-Presse


Tags: Guinea-Bissau, violence, clashes

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