Heavy gunfire was heard on Friday in Guinea Bissau’s capital near barracks where members of the national guard were holed up in the south of the city, according to an AFP journalist and sources.
The national guard members on Thursday night freed Finance Minister Souleiman Seidi and Secretary of State for the Public Treasury Antonio Monteiro from police custody, then took refuge in Bissau’s southern district, military and intelligence sources said.
Gunfire was then heard by an AFP reporter near the barracks in Santa Luzia district.
Special forces intervened after several unsuccessful attempts at mediation, with calm restored following an exchange of gunfire, the sources said.
President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, elected in December 2019, is currently in Dubai, where he is attending the United Nations’s COP 28 climate conference.
Seidi and Monteiro had been taken into custody after being questioned for several hours about the withdrawal of $10 million from state funds, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Lawmakers questioned Seidi about the withdrawal during a National Assembly session on Monday.
He claimed that the withdrawal was legal and was intended to support the country’s private sector.
Members of the national guard took Seidi and Monteiro to an unknown location on Thursday before seeking refuge in the barracks, the sources said.
The AFP journalist saw members of the Guinea-Bissau Stabilisation Support Force, deployed to the country by the Economic Community of West African States, patrolling the streets of Bissau on Friday morning.
Guinea-Bissau suffers from chronic political instability and has faced a series of coups and attempted coups since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974, most recently in February 2022.