Official: 37 arrested in Guinea after coup attempt

AP News
Posted: Jul 20, 2011 5:03 PM
Official: 37 arrested in Guinea after coup attempt

At least 37 soldiers have been arrested in a wave of detentions in Guinea the day after gunmen nearly killed the country's first democratically elected leader, pounding his house with rockets.

Many of the officers who are being held have ties to Guinea's past two military rulers, said a military official who confirmed the arrests Wednesday and who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press. They include a top bodyguard and a minister in the military government of Capt. Moussa 'Dadis' Camara, who seized power in a 2008 coup and was ousted a year later. Also among the group is the head of the army under Gen. Sekouba Konate, who succeeded Camara.

It was Konate who surprised the world by agreeing to hand over power to civilians in elections last November, ending 52 years of authoritarian rule.

President Alpha Conde, who won the vote, initially enjoyed the backing of the military whose members are largely from his own Malinke ethnic group.

In the seven months since the vote, however, his relationship with the army has become strained. Analysts say he treaded a dangerous line when he sacked Gen. Nouhou Thiam, the head of the army under Konate, and announced plans to reduce the size of the bloated military.

Among the first two soldiers arrested on Tuesday in the hours after the attack were Thiam and Camara's former bodyguard, who is dubbed "De Gaulle," said Francois Louceny Fall, Conde's chief of staff.

On Wednesday, the official confirmed that Col. Abdoulaye Diaby, the minister of health under Camara, had been taken in as had Sekouba's aide-de-camp.

The assault on Conde's house began at 3 a.m. Tuesday as soldiers encircled the residence, then launched rocket-propelled grenades and fired bazookas into the president's bedroom. Conde was saved because he was sleeping in a different room.

The United States condemned the attempt on Conde's life in a statement Wednesday. State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke Fulton urged citizens of the West African nation to stay committed to democracy.