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Bissau Guineans Protest Military Arrests


Hundreds of people in Guinea-Bissau took to the streets Thursday to express their anger at the military's brief arrest of the civilian prime minister.

Soldiers arrested Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior Thursday morning and took him to the country's main military camp. When they released him and escorted him back to his office, they were met by pro-democracy supporters waving palm fronds and chanting "Down with Dictatorship."

Mr. Gomes was seized along with Army Chief Zamora Induta.

Induta's deputy, Antonio Indjai, told the prime minister's supporters to go home.

Indjai told the crowds that Prime Minister Gomes is responsible for many deaths and warned that the military would kill him if the crowds did not disperse. His supporters eventually left.

The prime minister's brief arrest appears related to a former navy chief who is accused of leading a 2008 coup attempt. Bubo Na Tchuto secretly returned from exile in the Gambia last year and sought refuge at the local United Nations headquarters.

Guinea-Bissau's government wanted to prosecute Na Tchuto for the alleged coup attempt. But he left the U.N. compound on Thursday with Deputy Army Chief Indjai.

Na Tchuto said he is angry that people are supporting Prime Minister Gomes when no one supported him when he was forced into exile.

Na Tchuto said he was not involved in the 2008 coup attempt, that he would never let down his troops and that he would never desert his country unless he was forced to.

Na Tchuto's exact whereabouts are unknown, but he is not believed to be under arrest. Soldiers continue to detain Army Chief Induta, who is an ally of Prime Minister Gomes.

It is the latest political turmoil in a country with a history of often-violent instability. Mutinous soldiers assassinated President Joao Bernardo Vieria last March, hours after his chief political rival died in a bomb blast.

Voters chose a new president last July in a peaceful election. President Malam Bacai Sanha appears not to have been involved in Thursday's events.

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