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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Guinea-Bissau: Cassamma's Agunentas Fired Near Batista Tagme Na Wai

BISSAU (Reuters) - Guinea-Bissau's military said on Tuesday the armed forces chief had been fired on by militiamen hired to protect the president and ordered the militia to be disbanded.
But a presidential guard officer said the incident at midnight on Sunday was an accident and not an attempt to kill armed forces chief General Batista Tagme Na Wai.

The row over the shooting reflected tension between Na Wai, who has criticised some of President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira's decisions and appointments, and Vieira, who survived an attack on his residence by renegade soldiers in November.

Since independence in 1974, the former Portuguese colony in West Africa has had a history of coups and military mutinies.

"At midnight on January 4 ... General Batista Tagme Na Wai was aimed at by a burst of gunfire fired by Aguentas militia mobilised and armed by Interior Minister Cipriano Cassama," the armed forces command said in a statement broadcast by state media. No injuries were reported from the incident.

A presidential guard officer said the AK-47 automatic rifle of one of Vieira's guard had gone off while General Na Wai and his escort were passing. "It wasn't an assassination attempt," adjutant Albino Bogra told reporters.

Guinea-Bissau, whose main export is cashew nuts, is among the poorest countries in the world. Its security has been threatened in recent years by Colombian cocaine cartels using its territory to smuggle drugs to Europe.

The interior ministry had recruited a 400-strong force of militia, known as Aguentas, to be Vieira's personal bodyguard after the president was the target of a machinegun and rocket-propelled grenade attack on his residence on November 23

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