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Suspected coup plotters arrested in Guinea-Bissau, leader at large

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BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau (Reuters) -- Guinea-Bissau's security forces have detained several opposition politicians and military officers, but a former junta leader who challenged the elected president is still at large, government sources said on Sunday.

At least four opposition politicians had been arrested and others were being sought on suspicion of plotting a coup with former military junta leader Ansumane Mane, the sources said.

Mane challenged civilian President Kumba Yalla on Monday by proclaiming himself armed forces chief-of-staff after a dispute over promotions. Most armed forces rallied to Yalla, triggering fighting in and around the capital on Thursday.

State television said among those arrested was Francisco Benante, secretary-general of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. It led the country from 1974, when it gained independence from Portugal, to 1998.

The television said Mane had been plotting a coup, and Benante was to have become defense minister in his government.

The leaders or senior officials of three other opposition parties had also been arrested, sources said, along with at least eight military personnel, including senior officers.

Thursday's fighting in and around the capital triggered a civilian exodus and revived memories of the bloody 1998 army revolt Mane led against former President Joao Bernardo Vieira. Mane ousted Vieira later the same year.

Despite initial reports on Friday that Mane had been arrested by loyalist forces, state radio said on Saturday that he was still at large. Sources said he was still being sought by security forces on Sunday.

The city of Bissau was relatively calm.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



RELATED STORIES:
Report: Guinea-Bissau rebel leader surrenders
November 25, 2000
Ex-junta chief held in Guinea-Bissau, capital calm
November 24, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Guinea-Bissau Page


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