Bissau releases former navy chief held in coup plot

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 21, 2012 1:11 PM
Bissau releases former navy chief held in coup plot
BISSAU (Reuters) - Military authorities in Guinea Bissau have released the West African nation's former navy chief, Rear Admiral Bubo Na Tchuto, who was arrested after a failed December 26 coup, security sources said on Thursday.Na Tchuto, accused by Washington of being a narcotics kingpin, was seen as a rival to former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior and former President Raimundo Pereira who led a transition government after the death of President Malam Bacai Sanha in January."Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, former chief of staff of the navy was released, along with another five soldiers of the navy on June 21 from the Mansoa prison where they had been detained since the events of December 26," a source at the army headquarters said, requesting not to be named.Guinea Bissau has become a drug trafficking hub to Europe in recent years and has been in turmoil since soldiers seized power on April 12, derailing a presidential election in the latest of a string of military interventions in the country's politics since independence from Portugal in 1974.Pereira's interim government was toppled in the April coup in the middle of a presidential election campaign in which Gomes Junior was the frontrunner. Both Gomes Junior and Pereira were detained but later fled the country after they were released.The U.S. government slapped a travel ban and asset freeze on Na Tchuto and one of his associates in 2010, branding them as narcotics trafficking kingpins.The current caretaker government of President Manuel Sherifo Nhamadjo, who took over from the military following the April 12 coup, was not immediately available to comment on Na Tchuto's release.(Reporting by Alberto Dabo; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Jon Hemming)