by Alberto Dabo and Samba Balde
BISSAU (Reuters) – Gunshots rang out overnight from Thursday to Friday in Bissau, capital of Guinea-Bissau, and continued into the morning after soldiers freed a minister opposing the president Umaro Sissoco Embalo, who had just been arrested on charges of embezzlement of public funds, Reuters journalists and a police source reported.
The first shots were heard around 11 p.m. about two kilometers from the presidential palace. Other shots appear to have rang out after midnight in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Bissau, where an army general lives.
The gunfire continued into the morning as military vehicles patrolled the streets and residents headed to work or school.
“The presidency has nothing to do with it,” said a member of the communications service of the head of state, who is in the United Arab Emirates for the COP28 on the climate.
According to a police source, the first shooting began when heavily armed soldiers stormed a police station to free the Minister of Finance, Suleimane Seidi, who had been arrested shortly before in the evening.
Suleimane Seidi is accused of having withdrawn without authorization more than six billion CFA francs (around 9.15 million euros) from public funds, the source said. His whereabouts now are unknown.
The Minister of Finance is a member of the PAIGC, a party which held the country’s presidency for a long time before being dislodged by Umaro Sissoco Embalo. At the head of a coalition, the PAIGC won the legislative elections last June.
Guinea Bissau, a West African country south of Senegal, has experienced at least 10 coups or attempted coups since its independence from Portugal in 1974.
An aborted coup attempt in February 2022 against Umaro Sissoco Embalo resulted in the death of at least six people.
(Reporting Alberto Dabo and Samba Balde, written by Sofia Christensen, French version Bertrand Boucey, edited by Kate Entringer and Blandine Hénault)
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