Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo said on Thursday that three people previously arrested by U.S. authorities for drug trafficking were behind an attempted coup last week.
Former navy admiral Bubo Na Tchuto and his aides Tchamy Yala and Papis Djeme were arrested in 2013 in a high-profile U.S. drug sting here on a luxury yacht off the West African coast for conspiring to ship cocaine into the United States.
The three pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a U.S. court and were later released after serving their sentences.
Embalo was leading a cabinet meeting on Feb. 1 when armed men stormed the compound in what he described as a well-funded and tightly planned assassination attempt. Eleven people ended up dead, mostly among the government’s security team.
He told reporters that he saw Yala and Djeme at the government palace during the coup attempt and that Na Tchuto was not present but was also behind the plot.
“During the coup, I see them. I see them with my eyes. They want to make a coup and kill me and the prime minister and all the government,” Embalo said.
“When the shots were being fired in the government palace, Bubo was at the Marine Corps headquarters .. and I heard the assailants say we are going to call him to send us reinforcements.”
He also said that among those involved were the same people who killed former president João Bernardo Vieira in 2009. Rebels from Senegal’s Casamance region were also involved, Embalo said.
Guinea-Bissau has seen around 10 successful or failed coups since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974. It is a major transit point for Latin American cocaine headed for Europe, which has contributed to its instability.