CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Heavy gunfire erupted early Sunday near the presidential palace in Guinea’s capital and went on for hours, witnesses said, raising fears of a coup attempt in the West African nation with a long history of military power grabs.
The Defense Ministry later put out a statement saying that the presidential guard and other security forces had “contained the threat and repelled the group of assailants.”
However, it remained unclear whether President Alpha Conde and his allies remained in control of Guinea, where opposition to his rule has mounted since he won a third term in October after saying that term limits didn’t apply to him.
“Security and sweeping operations are continuing to restore order and peace,” the defense statement said.
The statement couldn’t be independently corroborated and there was no immediate comment from Conde himself. State television carried music and other programming, but made no mention of the gunfire that had echoed through the Kaloum neighborhood of Conakry all morning.
Conde first came to power in 2010 in the country’s first democratic election since independence from France in 1958. Many saw his presidency as a fresh start for the country, which has been mired by decades of corrupt, authoritarian rule.
Opponents, though, say he has failed to improve the lives of Guineans, most of whom live in poverty despite the country’s vast mineral riches including bauxite and gold.
In 2011, he narrowly survived an assassination attempt after gunmen surrounded his home overnight and pounded his bedroom with rockets. Rocket-propelled grenades landed inside the compound and one of his bodyguards was killed.
After pushing through a referendum to amend the constitution, Conde ran for a third term last year and won. His efforts, though, led to violent demonstrations in Conakry, and the opposition has said dozens were killed in the ongoing unrest.