Guinea-Bissau election marred by assassination

AP News

3/19/2012 12:40:48 PM - AP News

A presidential election that was supposed to stabilize this coup-prone nation was marred by a military assassination just hours after polls closed Sunday.

Joao Biague, the director general of the judicial police, confirmed the death of Samba Diallo, the former head of military intelligence. Biague told the private radio station Pindjiguiti FM late Sunday that the police were investigating Diallo's death and will bring those responsible to justice.

Few details were available on Monday, but neighbor Germano Da Silva who lives around 30 yards from Diallo's home said that he saw a police car with two soldiers and one person dressed as a civilian pull into the residential area. They knocked on Diallo's door and were told that the ex-intelligence chief had gone to a nearby boutique to buy a packet of cigarettes, said Da Silva, who saw the gunmen arrive and then pieced together the rest from speaking to the family and to other witnesses.

Da Silva said that the man dressed as a civilian then went to the boutique, where he found Diallo. He shot him three times, before jumping back in the car and speeding away.

It was unclear if the assassination is linked to Sunday's presidential election, an emergency ballot that was called after the death on Jan. 9 of the country's former leader, Malam Bacai Sanha, a 64-year-old diabetic who died in France after multiple hospitalizations abroad.

Sanha came to power in another emergency election in 2009, organized after the country's longtime ruler Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira was assassinated inside his home.

Head of the election commission Desejado Lima Da Costa held a press conference Monday, hours after meeting with the head of the armed forces, Lt. Gen. Antonio Indjai. Da Costa told reporters that the army chief had given him his assurances that the military will continue to secure the vote until the end of the electoral process.

He also said that he had requested additional reinforcements to be sent to protect the electoral commission office, where ballots are being counted. Preliminary results will be released no later than March 25, Da Costa said.

Nine candidates are vying for the presidency of this former Portuguese colony of 1.5 million, which has weathered successive coups and has more recently been destabilized by a booming cocaine trade. The trafficking has been made possible by the complicity of members of the government, especially the military.

In 2010, the U.S. Treasury Department listed two high-ranking army figures as drug kingpins, freezing any assets they may have had in the United States.

Late Monday, a crowd had gathered at Diallo's home. Friends and colleagues were streaming in to pay their condolences. They refused to speak to a reporter that tried to question them about the circumstances of the death.