Guinea-Bissau president 'unhurt'
Joao Bernardo Vieria reassures residents after "mutinous soldiers" attack his home.
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2008 12:51 GMT
Parliamentary elections were held in Guinea-Bissau one week ago [EPA]

The president of Guinea-Bissau has reassured residents after several men, reported to be mutinous soldiers, broke into the residence in a three-hour gun battle with his guards.

In an apparent coup attempt on Sunday, the soldiers attacked Joao Bernardo Vieira's home with heavy artillery fire, killing at least one of his guards and injuring several others, Cipriano Cassama, the interior minister, said.

The attackers did not reach the room where Vieira was hiding and neither he nor his wife was hurt, Cassama said.

"These people attacked my residence with a single objective - physically liquidate me,'' Vieira told the nation in a televised news conference on Monday.

"No one has the right to massacre the people of Guinea-Bissau in order to steal power by means of the gun.''

The walls of his fortified house were scarred with bullets and its floors still were littered with shell casings.

But calm appeared to have returned the capital, Bissau, and Vieira assured citizens that "the situation is under control".

Previous attempts

Guinea-Bissau has had multiple coups and attempted coups since 1980, when
Vieira himself first took power in one.

The UN says impoverished Guinea-Bissau, on the Atlantic coast of Africa, is a key transit point for cocaine smuggled from Latin America to Europe.

In parliamentary elections held a week ago, Kumba Yala, the opposition leader and former president, accused Vieira of being the country's top drug trafficker.

The president did not comment on the accusation.

Abdoulaye Wade, the president of neighbouring Senegal, ordered troops to the border with Guinea-Bissau on Sunday after receiving a panicked phone call from Vieira in the night, El Hadj Amadou Sall, Wade's spokesman, said.

"The troops will stay at the border until we are sure the situation has stabilised,'' Sall said.

The African Union condemned the attack.

AU condemnation

The AU rejects "any unconstitutional change of government and condemns in
advance any attempt to seize power by force", Jean Ping, the AU commission chairman, said in a statement.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, also condemned the attack.

Ban noted "with great concern reports of the alleged involvement of elements of the Armed Forces of Guinea-Bissau in the attack, and calls upon them to refrain from any measures that could further destabilize the country", his spokesman said in a statement.

Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, has a history of coups and misrule.

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