BISSAU, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo survived an attempted coup on Tuesday but said many members of the security forces had been killed repelling an attack on democracy that may have been linked to drug trafficking.
Earlier, heavy gunfire rang out near a government compound where Embalo had been chairing a cabinet meeting. The situation was unclear for several hours, during which the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS condemned what they called “an attempted coup”.
The fast-moving events in the former Portuguese colony on the West African coast came just over a week after the military in Burkina Faso, another country in the region, deposed the president there.
Appearing in the evening in a video posted on the Guinea-Bissau presidency’s Facebook page, Embalo said attackers had tried to enter the compound just after the cabinet meeting but had been repelled.
“It wasn’t just a coup. It was an attempt to kill the president, the prime minister and all the cabinet,” he said.
He added that the attack “was well prepared and organised and could also be related to people involved in drug trafficking”, giving no further details.
Poverty-stricken Guinea-Bissau is viewed by the United Nations as a major waypoint for Latin American cocaine headed for Europe. U.S. and European authorities have long suspected that some in the country’s military are involved in the drug trade.