By Enyichukwu Enemanna
A heavy gunfire was reported in Guinea-Bissau’s capital on Friday after some soldiers of the National Guard went to free a detained minister of finance, Souleiman Seidi along with a senior state official.
Seidi and António Monteiro, the secretary of state for the treasury, had been detained amid investigations into the alleged irregular withdrawal of $10m (£8m) of state funds.
The soldiers on Thursday night forcefully took the officials before fleeing into a barrack located south of the capital.
Special forces then intervened after attempts to negotiate failed, resulting into an exchange of gunfire.
The AFP news agency quoted an army spokesman as saying that the leader of the group of soldiers who were trying to free the two men is now being held by the army and the “situation is completely under control”.
The two officials were on Thursday questioned by an anti-corruption inquiry to clarify the payments to 11 companies.
They were thereafter arrested and detained so as not to jeopardise the investigations, local media said.
In a parliamentary session on Monday, the leader of the country’s main opposition party alleged that the owners of the companies who received payments were close to leaders of the country’s governing coalition but the Finance Minister defended the payments as legal.
National Guard soldiers later on Thursday evening invaded the police cells, located near Bandim market, “with AK-47 weapons and bazookas” and freed the detained officials, the privately owned O Democrata news outlet reported.
It said the National Guard took them to an unknown location.
President Umaro Sissoco Embalo is currently out of the country, attending the UN’s COP28 climate conference in Dubai.
On Friday morning, regional stabilisation forces deployed by the regional West African bloc Ecowas were seen patrolling the streets, the AFP news agency reported.
Guinea-Bissau has suffered a series of coups and attempted coups since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974.