Soldiers briefly held Guinea Bissau's prime minister on Thursday and ousted the army chief of staff in the latest bout of military infighting to hit the African country.
President Malam Bacai Sanha declared the situation under control but questions over Guinea Bissau's leadership remained after the same group of soldiers teamed up with the chief suspect in a failed 2008 coup against Sanha's late predecessor.
"The situation is already under control. There was a problem between soldiers which spilled over into the civilian government," Sanha said after meeting the new officials in charge of the army.
"I will use my influence to find a friendly solution to this problem between soldiers," said Sanha, who has made tentative steps to restoring order in the country since renegade soldiers killed his predecessor Joao Bernado Vieira in March 2009.
Earlier, a Reuters witness said armed soldiers walked into the U.N. compound in the capital Bissau and emerged with former navy chief Bubo Na Tchuto, who had sought refuge there after being suspected of leading a 2008 coup attempt.
The same group of soldiers briefly detained Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior and said they had ousted armed forces chief of staff Admiral Jose Zamora Induta, replacing him with his deputy, General Antonio Njai.
"(Gomes) was detained this morning. Bubo Na Tchuto has voluntarily left the U.N. compound. The events are related," a Western diplomat in Bissau told Reuters by telephone.
"It's a coup within the army," the diplomat said.
Njai later declared his leadership of the armed forces in a joint news conference with Na Tchuto and issued a stark warning to Gomes and his supporters, hundreds of whom had earlier taken to the streets to demand his release.
"If the demonstrators do not leave the streets, I will kill them all, and I will kill Carlos Gomes Junior," Njai said.
The capital Bissau was calm, with some banks and shops shutting and little traffic in the streets.
Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, is one of the world's poorest nations. The official economy relies on cashew nut exports, though the country has unexploited bauxite, phosphate and oil deposits.
Already prone to coups and revolts, the nation has become a hub for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Latin American cocaine trafficked into Europe. Analysts say drugs have corrupted officials and deepened competition between factions.
Thursday's incident comes after last year's peaceful election had raised hopes for progress in reforming the armed forces and instilling confidence in the weak government.
"It has happened at a bad time as Guinea-Bissau was regaining confidence and support from abroad. We will try and see if we can help Guinea-Bissau overcome this," Vladimir Monteiro, a spokesman for the United Nation mission said.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 01 Nisan 2010, 22:00