The circumstances of the shooting in Bissau, the capital, remain unclear.
Gunfire erupted overnight near Guinea-Bissau’s presidential palace and continued Friday morning after soldiers freed a minister from the main opposition party detained for alleged embezzlement of public funds, journalists said. Reuters and a police source.
Gunshots were first heard around 11:00 p.m. GMT about two kilometers from the presidential palace. An apparent exchange of fire was also heard after midnight in the Antula neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital, where an army general resides.
Military vehicles were on the streets Friday morning as residents headed to work and school. Gunshots were still heard but less frequent than during the night. Another journalist heard gunshots not far from the presidential palace.
According to AFP, citing military and intelligence sources, members of the National Guard released Finance Minister Souleiman Seidi and Treasury Secretary Antonio Monteiro from police custody. The two men were questioned Thursday morning about the alleged withdrawal of $10 million from state coffers.
Their fate is currently unknown.
Seidi is a member of the former ruling PAIGC party, which leads the coalition that won a majority in June’s parliamentary elections.
The gunfire was between Guard soldiers and special forces.
Later Friday, a spokesman for the chief of staff of the Guinea-Bissau army said the head of the security forces unit involved in the nighttime clashes had been apprehended.
“Colonel (Victor) Tchongo is in our hands. The situation is completely under control,” Captain Jorgito Biague told AFP.
A season of coups
Meanwhile, Embalo is attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai, where he is expected to speak on Friday.
There have been at least 10 coups or attempted coups in Guinea-Bissau since its independence from Portugal in 1974. Only one democratically elected president has served a full term in the West African country south of Senegal.
At least six people were killed during a failed attempt to oust President Umaro Sissoco Embalo in February last year. At the time, Embalo suggested it was linked to the government’s fight against drug trafficking rather than a military plan to seize power.
“It wasn’t just a coup. It was an attempt to kill the president, the prime minister and the entire cabinet,” he said at the time following gunfire that reportedly lasted five hours after the presidential palace was surrounded by heavily armed men .
West Africa has been hit by multiple military takeovers over the past three years, including two in Mali, one in Guinea, two in Burkina Faso and one in Gabon.
Sierra Leone government rebuffed a military attempt to topple him this weekend. More than 20 people were killed on Sunday when gunmen attacked military barracks, a prison and other locations in the capital, Freetown, freeing around 2,200 detainees.