Arrests over Guinea-Bissau failed coup plot
Army says 25 soldiers jailed and a large quantity of arms seized in West African nation plagued by drug trafficking.
Last Modified: 30 Dec 2011 20:29
Guinea-Bissau, in West Africa, is perennially unstable, with a history of coups and army mutinies [EPA]

Twenty-five renegade soldiers involved in an apparent coup plot in Guinea-Bissau are being detained in the capital, Bissau, and at an air base to its north, an AFP reporter says.

Arms were also reportedly seized at the homes of two soldiers arrested for taking part in Monday's attack on army headquarters which the rulers have described as a coup bid.

General Antonio Indjai, the army chief, said on Wednesday he was "staggered" by the quantity of arms found during search operations in the northern suburb of Plack 1.

The army seized 30 Kalashnikovs, three rocket-launchers, a machine-gun, six crates of shells, three crates of flamethrowers, eight bulletproof jackets and ammunition in searches witnessed by AFP.

"I am surprised to see so many weapons which would have been used to destroy our country ... I call on government to build secure armories to avoid having thousands of arms circulating outside of appropriate channels of control," Indjai said.

Plot 'mastermind'

Indjai announced on Monday that a coup attempt by a group of renegade soldiers had been foiled.

The army said it had arrested controversial navy chief, Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, whom the US has branded a drug kingpin - as the "mastermind" of the plot.


Some observers put the mutiny down to a falling out between Indjai and Bubo Na Tchuto, who was among 25 detainees paraded before journalists on Thursday.

Bubo Na Tchuto is being detained in Mansoa, 60km north of Bissau, and the 24 others in four cells at a Bissau air base.

Another officer, General Watna Na Lai, was wounded and remains in hospital.

Bubo Na Tchuto told visiting journalists, human rights activists and non-governmental organisations he was "in good spirits".

But he criticised the conditions of his detention in a 20sq metre office at the Mansoa garrison that had been turned into a cell.

"Since I was brought here, I haven't seen my doctor, I'm suffering from high blood pressure," he said, adding that he had not been able to see his family including his wife.

"When she sends food I never get it," he said.

'Small badly lit cells'

In Bissau, journalists saw another 24 detainees held at the air base. Journalists were not allowed to speak to them but members of NGOs who organised the visits said they also criticised the condition of their detention "in very small, badly lit cells with filthy toilets and without running water".

"We will plead with military authorities so the conditions of their detention are improved," Luis Vaz Martins, a member of an NGO that organised the visits, said.

He said none of the prisoners had been presented to a military investigating magistrate.

"Some have minor injuries, generally bruises suffered in their arrest; they did not suffer gunshot wounds but were beaten with clubs," Vaz Martins said.

Guinea-Bissau is perenially unstable, with a history of coups and army mutinies, and has become a hunting ground for drug cartels which use it as a hub to traffic drugs to Europe.

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