- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 6, 2009

BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau | Authorities said Friday they foiled an attempted coup and security forces killed two people purportedly involved, including a candidate in the West African nation’s upcoming presidential election.

A statement issued by Guinea-Bissau’s intelligence service said the coup plot was masterminded by former Defense Minister Helder Proenca. It said presidential candidate Baciro Dabo was also involved, though his family denied the allegation.

Both men were confirmed dead in separate shootings.

“This being a subversive act and its perpetrators being armed, police help was requested in order to disarm them,” the intelligence service statement said, according to Portugal’s national news agency Lusa. “During the operation some gave themselves up while others resisted, bringing an exchange of gunfire that caused their deaths.”

Mr. Dabo’s brother, Iaia Dabo, denied Baciro Dabo took part in any coup plot and rejected allegations he had resisted arrest.

A former Portuguese colony, Guinea-Bissau has a long history of instability with numerous coups and attempted coups, most of which were led by the army.

The West African country’s president, Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira, was assassinated March 2, just hours after his longtime rival, the head of the armed forces, was killed by a bomb.

Despite fears the army would take over after Mr. Vieira’s death, Guinea-Bissau has remained stable. The head of parliament, Raimundo Pereira, was named interim president and is leading a transitional government organizing June 28 elections. Campaigning begins Saturday.

Armed forces Chief of Staff Capt. Zamora Induta said those arrested would be handed over to the judicial authorities. He appealed for calm and said the military remained “totally subordinate to the constitutional order and democratically elected institutions.”

Guinea-Bissau was otherwise calm, but the country remains volatile. No one has been prosecuted for Mr. Vieira’s assassination, and U.N. officials say the country has become a leading transit point for Europe-bound cocaine.

The intelligence service statement claimed former Prime Minister Faustino Imbali and retired armed forces officers were also involved in the attempted overthrow. The plotters planned to oust the interim president, dissolve parliament, and kill Capt. Induta and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, the statement said.

Mr. Dabo had resigned his post as territorial administration minister in mid-May and quit the ruling party to run as an independent in the election. He was one of 13 candidates, but was not considered to have any chance of victory. Ruling-party candidate Malam Bacai Sanha is a heavy favorite to win.

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