Residents walk past parliament in Bissau last month. Military forces are in the streets of the capital Friday.
AFP/Getty Images
Residents walk past parliament in Bissau last month. Military forces are in the streets of the capital Friday.

Story highlights

NEW: Ban Ki-moon and the White House both "strongly" condemn the coup

A military spokesman says the acting president and prime minister are detained and well

He says no one was hurt or killed, despite witness reports of gunfire and explosions

A coup group says that Guinea-Bissau's government signed secret deal with Angola

CNN —  

Guinea-Bissau’s military has arrested acting President Raimundo Pereira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr., a military spokesman said, in a coup that has drawn widespread condemnation from the international community.

The men were taken into custody Thursday night, as gunfire and explosions rocked the capital of Bissau.

Both leaders are well and alive, said Daba Naualna, a spokesman for the army’s chief of staff. He said a group called the military command was behind the arrests, though it was unclear who its members are.

He claimed a group that calls itself “the Military Command” was behind the arrests, though it is not clear who its members are. Afterward, according to Naualna, the actual leaders of Guinea-Bissau’s armed forces took control of the situation in an attempt to ensure stability.

“The (army chief of staff) thinks, for the sake of the country, that power cannot fall into the streets and decided to have (the military) play its part in seeking solutions with the political class to resolve this crisis,” he said.

Military leaders have said they have no desire to “stay in power” and have asked political parties to send ideas on what to do next by Sunday, the spokesman said. A meeting is expected to take place Sunday to discuss the proposals.

World leaders condemned the coup, which occurred just before the second round of a presidential election set for April 29.

African Union Chairman Jean Ping issued a statement expressing his group’s “total rejection of any attempt at undermining the constitutional order” and demanding the “immediate and unconditional release” of Pereira and Gomes.

U.N. Security Council members issued a joint statement Friday saying they “strongly condemn the forcible seizure of power” and “firmly denounce this incursion by the military into politics,” and urged the “immediate release” of the prime minister, president and other senior officials.

“We urge all parties to put down their weapons, release government leaders immediately, and restore the legitimate civilian leadership,” Toner said.

On Saturday, the foreign ministers of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, known as CPLP, will meet in Lisbon to assess the situation and take “concerted measures” regarding Guinea-Bissau’s situation, that group said.

In a statement, the military command said the revolt was in response to a “secret deal” between the government and Angola.

This “deal” was drawn up to allow Angolan troops in the country to attack Guinea-Bissau’s military, a communique from the group said.

This group says the acting president and the prime minister signed the deal and also accuses the African Union – whose rotating presidency is currently held by Angola – of supporting intervention by Angolan forces.

The Military Command, like the larger military, does not intend to remain in power and wants to “return” the country to normalcy, according to its statement. The group called for calm and for people in the capital “to refrain from acts of violence and vandalism that could jeopardize the order.”

Guinea-Bissau’s history has been marked by several military coups, and these conflicts have ravaged its infrastructure and economy, leaving it among the poorest in the world.

The nation’s first round of voting in a presidential election was held in March, and campaigning for the second round was about to begin. The election was prompted by the death of the incumbent Malam Bacai Sanha in January after a long illness.

Residences of the prime minister and some government ministers were looted, witnesses said. Public media outlets are under the control of the army and are regularly broadcasting statements from the military, witnesses said Friday.

The country’s public media outlets are under the control of the army and are regularly broadcasting statements from the military, witnesses said Friday.

A number of Angolan troops are present in Guinea-Bissau under a bilateral agreement, on a mission to help reform the country’s armed forces, Angola said.

Angola, also a former Portuguese colony, issued a statement last week saying it would unilaterally withdraw its troops. A number of Angolan troops are in the country to help reform the country’s armed forces, Angola said.

The U.S. Embassy in Senegal said the situation in Guinea-Bissau is unclear, but it is closely monitoring events. It urged U.S. citizens to remain where they are and avoid downtown Bissau.

“We are disheartened by the negative turn of events so soon after the first round of Guinea-Bissau’s presidential election,” it said. “We are deeply concerned about the safety of all those in Bissau today, and urge all parties to put down their weapons and restore legitimate civilian leadership.”

Elisabete Azevedo-Harman, a professor of politics at the Catholic University of Portugal and Mozambique who is currently in Bissau, told CNN that she heard gunfire and explosions Thursday night near the prime minister’s residence.

Soldiers and police remained on the streets of the capital Friday, but in smaller numbers than the night before, she said. People were starting to venture out again, she added.

Sanha had become president in September 2009 after the assassination of his predecessor.

Despite his coming to power in what international observers deemed a fair and peaceful election, his tenure was marked by turmoil among the country’s military and political leadership.

To date, no democratically elected president of the country has served a full, five-year term.

CNN’s Umaro Djau, David McKenzie, Laura Perez Maestro and Zarifmo Aslamshoyeva contributed to this report.