Guinea-Bissau president assassinated by military
Hours after bomb attacks killed Guinea-Bissau military chief
Guinea-Bissau soldiers killed President Joao Bernardo Vieira early Monday in the hours after a bomb attack which claimed the life of the West African country's military chief, an army spokesman said.
Weeks of tensions between the president's followers and the military leadership erupted into clashes in the capital on Sunday.
"President Vieira was killed by the army as he tried to flee his house which was being attacked by a group of soldiers close to the head of the chiefs of staff Tagme Na Waie, early this morning," the military spokesman, Zamora Induta, told AFP.
Induta added that the president was "one of the main people responsible for the death of Tagme."
Vieira is a former military ruler who was ousted during a civil war in the 1990s and returned to power in a 2005 election. He had been at odds withTagme.
A bomb attack on the military headquarters killed General Tagme in Bissau on Sunday, three months after an assault on the presidential residence. Rocket explosions and automatic weapon fire were heard in the capital early Monday.
"A burst of gunfire from Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers was reported overnight until about 0430 GMT in different parts of Bissau," a local resident told AFP when contacted by telephone.
"We don't know anything about who was firing or why," he said, adding that soldiers have been deployed around the military headquarters.
Other witnesses said the gunfire came from the centre of the capital.
Tagme said earlier this year that he had been targeted in a previous assassination attempt, highlighting the chronic instability of this west African country.
"The general was in his office when the bomb went off," his aide, Lieutenant Colonel Bwam Nhamtchio, told AFP by telephone, crying as he spoke.
"He was gravely wounded and did not survive his injuries. This is a loss for all of us," he said, adding that five others were hurt in the evening blast -- two of them seriously.
One of the general's bodyguards, speaking anonymously, said the bomb was placed under the stairway leading to Tagme's office and the blast resulted in the collapse of a large part of the main headquarters building, where his office was located.
Serious blow to democracy
Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Monday called an emergency meeting of the government to "follow the situation," his office said.
Guinea-Bissau, a country of just 1.6 million people, has experienced a wave of attempted coups and mutinies since its independence from Portugal in 1974.
In recent years it has become a hub for South American drug traffickers en route to Europe, a trend which experts say has further undermined the already weak state institutions.
Tagme's predecessor, General Verissimo Correia Seabra, was shot dead by soldiers in October 2004.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the Economic Community of West African States, said the killing of Vieira was a serious blow to democracy in the whole region.
"We want to consolidate democracy, peace and security in this region. The death of a president, of a chief of staff, is very grave news," Chambas said.
"It's not only the assassination of a president or a chief of staff, it's the assassination of democracy," he said.
The African Union's top executive, Jean Ping, denounced Vieira's killing as a "criminal act".
Guinea-Bissau, sandwiched between Senegal and Guinea, is one of the poorest countries in Africa. The army spokesman said the killing of the president presented an opportunity to turn over a new leaf.
"The country will start up now. This man had blocked any momentum in this small country," Induta said.
President Vieira was killed by the army as he tried to flee his house which was being attacked by a group of soldiers
Military spokesman Zamora Induta