Guinean Special Forces have declared that they have dissolved the constitution and the government of President Alpha Conde and closed the West African nation's borders, hours after a heavy gunfire erupted around the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry.
In a short broadcast on state TV on Sunday, soldiers who staged an uprising in the capital earlier in the day announced the developments, which bore all the hallmarks of a coup d'etat and claimed that President Conde has been arrested.
Heavy gunfire broke out near the presidential palace on Sunday morning, with several sources saying an elite national army unit led by a former French legionnaire, Mamady Doumbouya, was behind the unrest.
Doumbouya, draped in Guinea's national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers, said in the broadcast that he and his supporters planned to form a transitional government and would give further details later.
"We have dissolved government and institutions," he said, adding, "We call our brothers in arms to join the people."
This came after unverified videos shared on social media earlier in the day apparently showed President Conde surrounded in a room by army special forces. His whereabouts were not immediately clear.
However, Guinea’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that an attack by mutinous soldiers on the presidential palace had been repelled.
"The presidential guard, supported by the loyalist and republican defense and security forces, contained the threat and repelled the group of assailants," the ministry said.
"Security and combing operations are continuing to restore order and peace," it added.
As the defense ministry said security forces loyal to Conde had repulsed the attack and were restoring order, people emerged onto the streets during the afternoon to celebrate the uprising's apparent success.
A Reuters witness saw pick-up trucks and military vehicles accompanied by motorcyclists and cheering onlookers.
Videos shared on social media earlier showed military vehicles patrolling Conakry's streets and one military source said the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighborhood, where the palace and most government ministries are located, had been sealed off.
UN chief condemns 'takeover' by force in Guinea
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the apparent coup in Guinea, urging the putschists who said they had seized power to release the country's detained president.
"I am personally following the situation in Guinea very closely. I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Conde," he said in a post on his Twitter account.
Conde won a third term in October after changing the constitution to allow him to stand again, despite violent protests from the opposition, raising concerns of further political upheavals in a region that has seen coups in Mali and Chad in recent months.
The West African nation has seen sustained economic growth during Conde's decade in power thanks to its bauxite, iron ore, gold and diamond wealth, but few of its citizens have seen the benefits.
Critics say the government has used restrictive criminal laws to discourage dissent, while ethnic divisions and endemic graft have sharpened political rivalries.
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