Guinea-Bissau leader survives post-election attack

Other News Materials 23 November 2008 19:47 (UTC +04:00)

Guinea-Bissau's President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira survived an attack by renegade soldiers on his home early on Sunday, one week after parliamentary elections were held in the poor, volatile West African state, Reuters reported.

The machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade attack against Vieira's residence betrayed persisting political and military tensions in the former Portuguese colony, which has suffered a string of coups and uprisings since independence in 1974.

Foreign donors say the small cashew nut-exporting nation urgently needs political stability to be able to resist the threat of powerful Latin American cocaine cartels which have been using its territory to smuggle tonnes of drugs to Europe.

"There was a military attack on the president's residence," Shola Omoregie, the U.N. Secretary-General's representative in Guinea-Bissau, told Reuters. "The president and his family are OK," he added, after visiting Vieira at his damaged home.

"The situation is very serious," Omoregie added.

Interior Minister Cipriano Cassama said one presidential bodyguard was killed in the assault and another wounded. Armed troops sealed off the presidential residence on Sunday, but the rest of the dilapidated seaside capital was otherwise quiet.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Batista Tagme Na Wai said the attackers were soldiers. "Five have been arrested and the situation is under control," he told reporters.

Authorities were investigating who was behind the assault, which followed the announcement by electoral officials on Friday that the former ruling PAIGC party had won a clear parliamentary majority in the legislative polls held on November 16.

Vieira's home was attacked just over a day after a major political rival, opposition leader and former president Koumba Yala, had rejected the election results as rigged.

Yala, who is from the Balante ethnic group and enjoys support in the Balante-dominated armed forces, had accused interior ministry police of trying to arrest him on Friday.

He had been ordered to present himself to the authorities to answer a criminal complaint filed by Vieira over election campaign allegations made by Yala in which he repeatedly accused the president of involvement in drug-trafficking.