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Guinea Bissau Military Stages Bloodless Coup - 2003-09-14

The armed forces have staged a bloodless coup in Guinea Bissau and taken President Kumba Yala prisoner. An officer of the Guinea Bissau army announced the coup on national radio on Sunday morning.

Identifying himself as Commander Zamora Induta, the officer claimed he was speaking on behalf of the national armed forces. He said the army had taken power in Guinea Bissau because, as he put it, the government had proved incapable of solving the country's problems.

The Portuguese government has deplored the military takeover in its former colony and called on the coup makers to "immediately establish constitutional legality."

The Guinea Bissau army announced it was establishing a Military Committee for the Restitution of Constitutional and Democratic Order. It named the armed forces chief of staff, General Verissimo Correia Seabre, as interim president. He said he would serve until elections could be arranged, but gave no date. General Correia Seabre said deposed President Yala would be offered exile in another country.

There have been no reports of gunfire in the capital, Bissau. The army called a night-time curfew in Bissau, and the city was reportedly calm Sunday morning, with civilians moving about normally. The only indication of the overthrow was the presence of soldiers armed with automatic weapons and grenade launchers at strategic intersections. The political climate has long been fraught in Guinea Bissau. Elections were scheduled for the October 12th, but like earlier calls for a vote, it was delayed. Guinea Bissau's parliament was dissolved by President Yala last November.

One of the soldiers' complaints was the government's failure to pay salaries. The country has also been hit by food shortages, which have led to strikes.

Guinea Bissau is one of the world's poorest countries. With a population of only 1.5 million people, the country is heavily dependent on international aid.