Equatorial Guinea says it thwarted ‘coup’

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa’s longest-serving leader.
Updated 03 January 2018
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Equatorial Guinea says it thwarted ‘coup’

MALABO: Equatorial Guinea: The West African state of Equatorial Guinea said Wednesday it had thwarted “a coup” against President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa’s longest-serving leader, that had allegedly been mounted by foreign mercenaries recruited by his political opponents.
Sources told AFP that the country’s ambassador to Chad had been arrested and was being held in a military camp.
In a statement read on public radio, Security Minister Nicolas Obama Nchama said an attempted coup took place on Dec. 24.
“A group of Chadian, Sudanese and Centrafricans [citizens of the Central African Republic] infiltrated Kye Ossi, Ebibeyin, Mongomo, Bata and Malabo to attack the head of state, who was in the Koete Mongomo presidential palace for the year-end holiday,” he said.
The “mercenaries... were recruited by Equatorial Guinean militants from certain radical opposition parties with the support of certain powers,” the minister said.
The plot had been prevented thanks to an operation carried out “in collaboration with the Cameroon security services,” he said.
Formerly a Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea is one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population lives in poverty.
Obiang, in power for more than 38 years, is accused by critics of brutal repression of opponents, electoral fraud and corruption.
Wednesday’s announcement came after Cameroon on Dec. 27 arrested 38 heavily-armed men on the border with the tiny state.
Two days later, Equatorial Guinea’s ambassador to France, Miguel Oyono Ndong Mifumu, referred to the incident as an “invasion and destabilization attempt.”
The suspects, taken into custody in a bus on the border, had rocket launchers, rifles and a stockpile of ammunition, according to his office.
On Saturday, the 75-year-old Obiang said “a war” was being prepared against his regime, “because they say I have spent a lot of time in power.”
The same day, the country’s ambassador to Chad, Enrique Nsue Anguesom, was arrested in the district of Ebibeyin, on Equatorial Guinea’s border with Cameroon, one of his cousins and a senior police officer told AFP on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He is being held in a military camp in Bata, Equatorial Guinea’s economic capital, “in connection with the investigation concerning the arrests” on Dec. 27, said one of the sources.
Concurring sources said Equatorial Guinea’s borders with Gabon and Cameroon were closed on December 27. Other sources said military reinforcements had been sent to the fronter with Cameroon. Officials could not be reached to confirm these accounts.
Obiang took power in a coup on Aug. 3, 1979, ousting his own uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema, who was shot by firing squad.
He was re-elected to a fifth seven-year term in 2016, gaining more than 90 percent of the vote, according to the official results.
Legislative elections on Nov. 12 last year saw the ruling party win 92 percent of the vote, a result condemned as fraudulent by dissidents.
The Citizens for Innovation (CI) opposition group, which secured one out of the 100 seats in the legislature, later reported that at least 50 of its members were detained after the ballot.
Its leader, Gabriel Nse Obiang, denied Wednesday that the CI had played any part in the attempted coup.
“I have no idea what they’re talking about,” Nse Obiang said, reached by phone from the capital Malabo. “The authorities are unable to come up with any proof.”
“Is the real problem that we are a serious opposition party who does not want to play along with the regime?” he asked.
In 2004, mercenaries attempted to overthrow Obiang in a coup thought to be largely funded by British financiers.


Hawaii helicopter evacuation readied as new lava stream hits ocean

Updated 30 min 46 sec ago
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Hawaii helicopter evacuation readied as new lava stream hits ocean

  • Six huge fissures sent rivers of molten rock through a blackened, volcanic wilderness that was once jungle, farmland and rural homes
  • Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, entered the fourth week of what may be an unprecedented, simultaneous eruption at its summit crater

PAHALA: A third lava flow from Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano streamed into the ocean on Thursday as US Marine Corps helicopters stood by to evacuate a Big Island community should molten rock or huge cracks block its final escape route.
Six huge fissures sent rivers of molten rock through a blackened, volcanic wilderness that was once jungle, farmland and rural homes.
Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, entered the fourth week of what may be an unprecedented, simultaneous eruption at its summit crater and along a six-mile (9.7-km) string of fissures 25 miles (40 km) down its east flank. At about 6 p.m. local time on Thursday, the volcano erupted at its summit, sending ash 10,000 feet (3000 m) into the air. The wind may carry ash to the southwest toward the Pahala area, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.
At least 50 rural homes and other structures have been destroyed by lava from fissures in a small area of the Big Island. Some 2,000 people have faced mandatory evacuations and another 2,000 in coastal communities may be forced to leave their homes if State Highway 130, their last exit, becomes blocked.
The US Marine Corps deployed two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters to Hilo, about 24 miles north (39 miles), in support of a task force standing by in case an air evacuation is needed. Each helicopter can carry up to 50 people at a time.
“We now have the capacity to evacuate all of the estimated population of lower Puna south of the lava flow within a few hours,” Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara of the Hawaii National Guard said in a statement.
Road crews dumped material into cracks on the road and covered them with steel plates in an effort to keep the highway open.
“Talks and discussions have been underway for possible air evacuations if it did come to that,” Tim Sakahara, Hawaii Department of Transportation, told reporters in a conference call.
Up at Kilauea’s 4,091-foot (1,246-meter) summit, at least 12 explosions a day on average are pumping ash plumes thousands of feet (meters) into the sky. Ash drifted up to 26 miles (42 km)southwest to dust the black sands of Punaluu beach with gray powder before blowing out to sea.
Down on the east flank of the volcano, six fissures re-erupted in lava fountains, as volcanic activity moved west toward Highway 130.
Geologists said that after three weeks of escalating activity, Kilauea volcano has entered a “steady state” of eruption.
“It’s probably going to do this for a little while longer,” said US Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall on the conference call, describing the stage of the eruption as the “middle” or “kind of the steady state.”
While a roughly 10-square-mile (26-sq-km) area of the Puna district has been ravaged, authorities stressed the eruption was having limited effects on the Connecticut-sized island that is a major tourist destination.
Norwegian Cruise Line said it would reinstate port calls to the island’s two largest cities, Kona and Hilo, after canceling them in recent weeks. Crystal Symphony cruises also said it planned to return to the two ports after canceling a Wednesday Hilo stop due to “an abundance of caution.”