Fighting erupted between two factions of Guinea Bissau’s armed forces early on Monday, forcing the prime minister to seek refuge at a foreign embassy, witnesses and a diplomat told Reuters.
Residents said automatic weapons and rocket fire could be heard at the Santa Luzia army base in the capital Bissau. No casualties have been reported.
« Apparently, it is friction between the army chief and the head of the navy, » the Bissau-based diplomat said, requesting not to be named. « The prime minister has sought refuge in a foreign embassy. »
A Guinea Bissau security source who also asked not to be named said the fighting broke out after the army chief of staff was arrested on the orders of the head of the navy, but was later freed by his troops.
The head of the navy, Rear-Admiral Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, denied any knowledge of an order to arrest the chief of staff.
« For a week now, I have been spending nights at my home, not at the barracks. I was informed of the situation, I had no idea what is going on, » Tchuto told journalists.
President Malam Bacai Sanha is recovering from a medical procedure in Paris. His illness and his departure for France in late November raised worries about a possible military takeover in a country that has suffered repeated coups and political assassinations.
Stability remains fragile in the former Portuguese colony on the West African coast after years of turmoil, fuelled by the military’s meddling in politics.
Reporting by Alberto Dabo; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Tim Pearce