An attempted coup is foiled after rebels appeared on state television saying they intended to “restore democracy” to the country.
The chief military rebel who led a failed coup in Gabon has been arrested and two of his commands killed after they stormed a public radio station, the country’s government says.
A group of soldiers appeared on the state broadcaster this morning to call for a popular uprising against ailing President Ali Bongo, saying they wanted to “restore democracy” to the west African nation.
In a statement read out by a soldier, flanked by two others holding guns, they said the military had seized power from the government and called on people to “rise up”.
Security forces later entered the radio station in the capital Libreville to take it back, killing two rebel troops, arresting their leader and freeing journalists who had been forced to help rebels make their appeal.
“Calm has returned, the situation is under control,” said government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou.
The rebels’ message was read by a person who identified himself as Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, deputy commander of the Republican Guard and head of a previously unknown group, the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defence and Security Forces.
Officials earlier said five rebels had entered the building and four had been arrested. A manhunt was then launched for one of the rebels – understood to be Lt Obiang – before he was arrested.
African Union chief Moussa Faki condemned the attempted coup.
He tweeted: “The @_AfricanUnion strongly condemns the coup attempt this morning in #Gabon. I reaffirm the AU’s total rejection of all unconstitutional change of power.”
Residents in Libreville reported seeing tanks and other armed military vehicles patrolling the streets following the rebels’ broadcast.
A curfew was imposed in the city and internet access was cut off as the attempted coup unfolded.
Despite people reporting “calm” in most of the capital, sporadic gunshots were heard at a radio station seized by rebels, according to a witness.
About 300 people gathered at the radio station in support of the coup but the military dispersed them using tear gas.
Since 2009, President Ali Bongo has been in power but has been out of the country since October following reports he had a stroke.
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