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Guinea-Bissau President Says Attack Possibly Related to Drug Trafficking

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Armed soldiers move on the main artery of the capital after heavy gunfire around the presidential palace in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, Feb. 1, 2022.

The capital of Guinea-Bissau appeared calm after an apparent coup attempt Tuesday.

President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, a former army general, addressed the nation Tuesday night. He appeared in a video posted to the presidency's Facebook page to describe the attack.

"It wasn't just a coup. It was an attempt to kill the president, the prime minister and all the Cabinet," he said. Earlier Tuesday, gunfire reportedly broke out in a compound in Bissau where the president was holding a Cabinet meeting.

Embalo said the attack "was well-prepared and organized and could also be related to people involved in drug trafficking," according to a Reuters report. He gave no further details in the video.

Guinea-Bissau's President Umaro Sissoco Embalo speaks to the media in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, Feb. 1, 2022, in this still image obtained from social media. (Radio Bantaba/via Reuters)
Guinea-Bissau's President Umaro Sissoco Embalo speaks to the media in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, Feb. 1, 2022, in this still image obtained from social media. (Radio Bantaba/via Reuters)


It was not clear whether there were any injuries or fatalities. Also unclear was who was behind the apparent attempted coup, which Reuters characterized as "stalled."

In a statement provided on Twitter, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional bloc of 15 West African states, called the attack a coup.

"ECOWAS condemns this coup attempt and holds the military responsible for the bodily integrity of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and the members of his government," the statement said.

Embalo was declared the winner of the 2020 elections, but the results have been contested by his opponent, Domingos Simoes Pereira.

Embalo started to form a new government with the support of the military even while a supreme court challenge to the election was ongoing.

United Nations spokesperson said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is "deeply concerned with the news of heavy fighting in Bissau" and asked for "an immediate end to the fighting and for full respect of the country's democratic institutions."

The country of 1.5 million people gained independence from Portugal in 1974 and has experienced four coups and more than 12 coup attempts since, The Associated Press reported.

Since August 2020, military coups have occurred in the West African countries of Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

Some information in this report came from Reuters, Agence France-Presse and The Associated Press.

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