Heavy gunfire has been heard in the capital of Guinea-Bissau near the seat of the government, according to media reports.
Armed men surrounded the Palace of government yesterday, where President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam were believed to have gone to attend a cabinet meeting.
The state broadcaster reported that the shooting has damaged the Government Palace, which is located close to the airport, and that “invaders” are holding government officials.
Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar in neighbouring Senegal, said it was unclear whether the gunfire was the presidential guards trying to protect the president, or if there was an attack on the presidential palace.The whereabouts of the president and the prime minister remains unknown at this time, he said.
People were seen fleeing the area, the local markets were closed and banks shut their doors, while military vehicles laden with troops drove through the streets, according to AFP news agency.
Meanwhile, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS condemned what it described as an attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau, which has a history of political instability. ECOWAS is following with great concern the evolution of the situation in Guinea-Bissau…where military gunfire is taking place around the government palace,” the organisation said. ECOWAS condemns this attempted coup and holds the military responsible for the safety of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and members of his government.”
The West African nation has suffered four military putsches since gaining independence in 1974, most recently in 2012.
UN chief Antonio Guterres also called for an immediate end to the fighting.
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned with the news of heavy fighting in Bissau,” said a statement on Tuesday.
Guterres called “for an immediate end to the fighting and for full respect of the country’s democratic institutions.”
Embalo, a 49-year-old reserve brigadier general and former prime minister, took office in February 2020 after winning a second-round runoff election that followed four years of political infighting under the country’s semi-presidential system. He was a candidate for a party called Madem, comprised of rebels from the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) which had led Guinea-Bissau to independence.