The leader of the west African nation of Guinea has been captured in a suspected coup by members of his own armed forces, according to reports.
Unverified footage showed soldiers detaining President Alpha Condé, 83, as the rebels issued declared they had ‘taken’ him and dissolved the government.
But the situation remained unclear as Mr Condé’s defence minister was quoted a short time earlier as saying an attack on the presidential palace had been ‘repulsed’.
Local media described the assailants as a unit of elite special forces led by a former French legionnaire, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya.
In a statement broadcast on national TV and radio, he said: ‘Having taken the President – who is with us – we have decided to effectively dissolve the constitution, dissolve the government and close all land and air borders.’
Mr Condé, who has ruled for 11 years, won a controversial third term amid violent protests after changing the constitution to allow him to stand again.
Colonel Doumbouya accused his government of ‘exploiting the justice system’, ‘trampling over citizens’ rights’ and overseeing ‘endemic poverty’.
In the video, reportedly shot from within the presidential palace, one soldier asks Mr Condé: ‘Have we touched a single hair on your head? Have we brutalised you, your Excellency?’
He does not appear to be seriously injured but refuses to respond.
Heavy gunfire was heard throughout the day in the Kaloum neighbourhood of the capital of Conakry.
Kaloum, which lies on a small peninsula on the tip of the city’s coastal edges, is home to most government ministry buildings and the presidential palace.
The only bridge connecting the peninsula to the mainland has been sealed off and many heavily armed soldiers were posted around the presidential palace, a military source told the Reuters news agency.
Addressing ‘the Guinean people’, Colonel Doumbouya said the coup was justified by ‘the social and economic situation of the country, the dysfunction of our republican institutions, the exploitation of the justice system, the trampling of citizens’ rights, the disrespect of democratic values, the excessive politicisation of the civil service, financial mismanagement [and] endemic poverty and corruption’.
He claimed to be speaking on behalf of the national army and called the new ruling regime the ‘National Committee for Assembly and Dvelopment’ (CNRD).
The rebel leader added: ‘We call on our brothers-in-arms to unite in order to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Guinean people.
‘We also invite them each to stay in their barracks and continue their usual activities.
‘We will not repeat the errors of the past.’
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