Just weeks before the second round of a disputed presidential election, the armed forces have seized control of Guinea-Bissau's capital. The whereabouts of the nation's leaders are currently unknown.
The military launched a coup in the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau on Thursday, a day after a re-run vote of a disputed presidential election had been postponed by the country's electoral commission.
The armed forces had reportedly seized the ruling party's headquarters and the national radio station as shots rang out in the streets of the capital, Bissau, according to the news agency AFP. Troops attacked the residence of Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, lobbing grenades at his home. It was unclear whether the prime minister was there during the assault.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the coup, warning that it had the capacity to "intervene on two fronts." ECOWAS has been focused primarily on the volatile political situation in Mali, where an ethnic Tuareg rebellion has threatened to break the nation apart.
"We have received some difficult information from Guinea-Bissau, and this information indicates to us that there is a coup underway," Ivorian Foreign Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan said.
"ECOWAS formally and rigorously condemns such an attempted coup d'etat," Duncan added.
History of instability
A former Portuguese colony that gained independence in 1974 and has suffered numerous military coups, Guinea-Bissau was slated to hold a runoff election on April 29. The election would have pitted Prime Minister Gomes against former president, Kumba Yala.
Yala had rejected the results of the election's first round on March 18, which saw the prime minister take 49 percent of the vote, just short of an outright victory. The former president, however, said he would boycott the second round after raising allegations of widespread fraud.
The emergency election is being held due to the death of former president Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in January after being rushed to Paris for treatment of end-stage diabetes.
slk/av (AP, AFP)