President Umaro Embalo said former navy chief Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto and two aides were arrested for the failed coup.
Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo has accused a former navy chief linked to drug trafficking and two accomplices of being behind a failed coup earlier this month.
Heavily armed men attacked government buildings in the capital, Bissau, on February 1 as Embalo was presiding over a cabinet meeting. The president later told reporters that he escaped a five-hour firefight unharmed and that 11 people, mostly among the government security team, were killed in the fighting.
Embalo, who has launched an investigation into what he described as a well-funded and tightly planned assassination attempt, said Thursday that former Navy chief Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto and his aides Tchamy Yala and Papis Djeme were behind the coup attempt and were among those arrested.
The three men named by the President were arrested in April 2013 aboard a boat off the coast of West Africa by undercover agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), for their involvement in a high-profile American drug sting and their plot to ship cocaine to the United States.
DEA agents posing as traffickers said the men tried to negotiate a deal to import cocaine into Guinea-Bissau – a hub for cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Africa – and then to redirect it to North America and Europe.
The three pleaded guilty to conspiracy in US court. Tchuto was sentenced to four years in prison in the United States while Tchamy Yala and Papis Djeme were sentenced to prison terms of five and six and a half years, respectively. All three returned to Guinea-Bissau after their release.
“I see them with my eyes”
Embalo linked the attempted coup to transatlantic drug trafficking.
“The hands holding the guns are people connected to the big drug cartels,” he told reporters.
The president said 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 putsch, I see them. I see them with my eyes. They want to make a coup and kill me, the prime minister and the whole government,” Embalo said.
“When the shots were fired in the government palace, Bubo was at Marine Corps headquarters…and I heard the assailants say we were going to call him for reinforcements.”
The president 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, he added.
Guinea-Bissau, an impoverished coastal state of about two million people south of Senegal, has suffered four military coups since its independence from Portugal in 1974, the most recent in 2012.
In 2014, the country pledged to return to democracy, but it has seen little stability since, and the armed forces wield considerable influence.