Guinea-Bissau's Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior (file photo)
Guinea-Bissau's Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior (file photo)

Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau briefly detained the country's prime minister and arrested the army chief of staff Thursday in what appeared to be a coup attempt.

Prime Minister Carlos Gomes, Jr. and Army Chief Zamora Induta were both seized and taken to a military base in the capital, Bissau.  

Soldiers later escorted Mr. Gomes back to his office, where demonstrators gathered outside and chanted his name in a show of support.

However, the seized army chief's deputy, Antonio Ndjai, warned that the military would kill Mr. Gomes if his supporters did not disperse.

Diplomats and officials say the situation is unclear but may be related to Bubo Na Tchuto, a former navy chief who was accused of leading a 2008 coup attempt.

Soldiers on Thursday retrieved Na Tchuto from a United Nations building where he had stayed since returning from Gambia late last year.

Guinea-Bissau's government had demanded the surrender of Na Tchuto, without success.

The West African country has a history of instability.  Mutinous soldiers assassinated President Joao Bernardo Vieria in March of last year.  The murder was apparently to avenge the killing of the army chief of staff a day earlier.

In July, Guinea-Bissau elected a new president, Malam Bacai Sanha.  The president appeared to be unaffected by Thursday's events.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AF and Reuters.