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.


California wildfire moves toward Yosemite, small mountain towns

Updated 18 July 2018
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California wildfire moves toward Yosemite, small mountain towns

  • The so-called Ferguson Fire had charred nearly 19 square miles by Tuesday afternoon
  • A mandatory evacuation was ordered over the weekend for more than 100 homes deemed most threatened in Jerseydale
LOS ANGELES: A fierce California wildfire crept toward the boundary of Yosemite National Park on Tuesday as crews fought through steep, often inaccessible terrain and thick smoke to protect a string of small mountain communities in the path of the flames.
The so-called Ferguson Fire, which started on Friday night and killed a firefighter the following day, had charred nearly 19 square miles (49 square kilometers) by Tuesday afternoon and was burning just a few miles (km) outside the park.
“The fire continues to grow,” fire spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman said. “There’s a lot of vegetation and it’s very, very dry, there’s a significant amount of beetle kill (in the trees).”
“The story is, this is steep terrain,” Freeman said. “You would have a difficult time walking on some of these slopes or getting people into these canyons. There are a lot of places where we simply cannot put people because it’s not safe.”
Making the job more difficult was an inversion layer of thick black smoke pouring off the flames and visible for miles (km) that prevented water-dropping helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from flying low into narrow canyons, she said.
State Route 140, a western entry point into Yosemite, remained closed by the flames. Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the conflagration.
As the blaze marched slowly east and south from its starting point at Savage Trading Post, 20 miles (32 km) southwest of the park’s boundary in the Sierra Nevada mountains, fire managers warned that the communities of Jerseydale, Mariposa Pines, Clearing House and Incline could be in danger.
A mandatory evacuation was ordered over the weekend for more than 100 homes deemed most threatened in Jerseydale, Freeman said.
Firefighter Braden Varney was killed on Saturday when a bulldozer he was using to cut a fire break overturned, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Varney is the 10th US wildland firefighter to die in the line of duty this year, according to National Interagency Fire Center data.
California has had its worst start to the fire season in a decade, with more than 220,421 acres (89,201 hectares) blackened and six major wildfires burning statewide as of Tuesday, according to the agency.
Wildfires have already burned more than 3.3 million acres (1.3 million hectares) across the United States this year, more than the year-to-date average of about 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) over the past 10 years.
The risk of large wildfires is set to ease in much of the Southwest and Rocky Mountains due to expected summer rains, but risk levels will remain high in California through at least October, according to the agency.