Armed men stage coup attempt in Sierra Leone
President reportedly flees to Guinea
In this story:
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (CNN) -- Armed men launched a coup
attempt Sunday and said they had taken power in this West
African nation. A spokesman, who identified himself as Cpl.
Gborie, went on national radio and said that junior army
ranks had ousted President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
According to the coup leaders, Kabbah fled to neighboring
"We want democracy but not this democracy. Our soldiers have
been suffering for far too long", said the spokesman. Gborie
also demanded that "all ministers and other politicians
should immediately report to military headquarters".
The broadcast came amid reports of heavy shooting in several
parts of the capital of Freetown. There were reports of
gunbattles and artillery fire, with the attackers apparently
meeting some resistance.
4 killed in fighting
Four people were reportedly killed in the fighting. Officials
said that casualties were still coming in. Soldiers have
declared a round-the-clock curfew.
The coup spokesman claimed that army troops had joined the
uprising, but it remained unclear whether the coup leaders
represented a faction within the army, or the entire armed
forces. It also remained unclear who was actually involved in
Gborie accused the government of introducing tribalism, and
reportedly called for the return to Sierra Leone of Foday
Sankoh, a leader of the rebel Revolutionary United Front, and
Capt. Solomon Musa, a former deputy military leader linked to
coup allegations in 1993.
Sunday's coup attempt comes after two alleged coup plots
against Kabbah were discovered last year.
Hundreds of prisoners freed
During Sunday's gunbattle in the Sierra Leone capital,
hundreds of prisoners at the Pademba Road central prison were
set free. Witnesses said about 20 heavily armed soldiers
broke into the prison and freed more than 600 inmates.
Among those who had been held at the prison were two groups
of soldiers charged in alleged coup plots against Kabbah's
civilian government in 1996.
The coup spokesman declared Sunday's coup an internal matter,
and called on international troops within Sierra Leone to
stay out. A substantial number of troops from other West
African nations are stationed in Sierra Leone.
Nigerian troops are there as part of a defense pact between
the two countries to fend off rebel attacks, particularly in
Witnesses said the rebel soldiers clashed with the Nigerian
troops around the presidential office complex in the capital.
A sergeant claiming to be one of the coup leaders said the
army has seized parliament and the government offices, as
well as the radio and television stations. He said a new
government would be announced at the end of the day.
U.S. embassy hit by grenades
Earlier in the day, troops were reported to be moving around
the city in military vehicles, commandeering civilian
vehicles and telling civilians to stay indoors.
The capital's Lungi International Airport, which is under the
control of troops belonging to the West African peacekeeping
force ECOMOG, was reported closed to flights in and out of
The United States urged its citizens in Sierra Leone to stay
indoors Sunday. White House spokesman Barry Toiv said
Washington was prepared to evacuate its citizens if
The statement came shortly after the U.S. embassy in Freetown
was hit twice by rocket-propelled grenades. Apparently no one
Reuters contributed to this report.
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