Chad FM warns of regional ‘threat’ after E. Guinea coup bid

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema was re-elected to a fifth seven-year term in 2016, gaining more than 90 percent of the vote according to the official results (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Chad FM warns of regional ‘threat’ after E. Guinea coup bid

MALABO: Chad’s Foreign Minister Mahamat Zen Cherif, in a visit to Equatorial Guinea after a bid to overthrow long-time President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, condemned the attempted coup as a “major threat” to central Africa.
“The attempt at destabilization is not just an affair that only concerns Equatorial Guinea, it is also a major threat of destabilization that concerns the entire sub-region of central Africa,” he said in remarks reported by state television TVGE.
On Wednesday, Security Minister Nicolas Obama Nchama said the authorities had thwarted an attempted coup, allegedly mounted on December 24 by foreign mercenaries recruited by political opponents.
Hours after his statement, TGVE reported clashes with “mercenaries” near the border with Cameroon.
Government troops shot dead one “mercenary” and “used gunfire to disperse (others) in the forests along the border,” it said, without specifying how many fighters were involved or how long the clashes lasted.
Formerly a small Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population lives in poverty.
Obiang, 75, is Africa’s longest-serving leader, having seized power in 1979.
Critics accuse him of brutal repression of opponents, electoral fraud and corruption. He has faced a string of coup attempts in his more-than 38-year tenure.
Cherif, who was cited by state media after he spoke with Obiang on Wednesday, called on “all countries in the sub-region to unite their efforts to deepen inquiries, not just to understand what happened here but also to establish the cause of this attempt at destabilization.”
He said he would go to Cameroon for talks with leaders there.
According to Wednesday’s statement, the mercenaries were Chadian, Sudanese and Centrafricans, as citizens of the Central African Republic are called.
“They 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,” it said.
The “mercenaries... were recruited by Equatorial Guinean militants from certain radical opposition parties with the support of certain powers,” the minister said.
The attempted infiltration had been repelled with the help of the Cameroon security services, according to the authorities.
Sources told AFP that the country’s ambassador to Chad, Enrique Nsue Anguesom, who was on holiday in Equatorial Guinea’s Ebibeyin district, had been arrested and was being held in a military camp.
Cameroon says that on December 27 it arrested 38 heavily armed men on its border with Equatorial Guinea, which consists of mostly dense forest territory on the African mainland and an offshore island where the capital lies.
Cameroonian security sources on Thursday said those arrested included an ex-general in the Chadian army, Mahamat Kodo Bani, who was once a senior officer in the presidential guard.
He is being held in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital, they said.
In Gabon, which also borders Equatorial Guinea, a senior government official said “security measures” had been taken on the border.
“We are working in coordination with Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea,” the source said.
Facebook, Whatsapp and VPNs in Equatorial Guinea have been blocked. “There is a real lack of transparency on what’s really going on,” a diplomat in the region said.
Obiang took power in a coup on August 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 November 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 on Wednesday strongly denied it had played any part in the attempted coup.


Taliban under attack in Badghis province

In this file photo, Afghan National Army soldiers carry out an exercise during a live firing at the Afghan Military Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghan officials say around 100 soldiers fled their posts and tried to cross into neighboring Turkmenistan during a weeklong battle with the Taliban, in the latest setback for the country's battered security forces. (AP)
Updated 47 min 25 sec ago
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Taliban under attack in Badghis province

  • Several government troops fleeing the Taliban rampage crossed into neighboring Turkmenistan
  • In a statement, the ministry had said that 50 Taliban combatants had been killed

KABUL: Afghanistan’s government launched a ground and air offensive on Monday to flush out Taliban insurgents from a key area in the northwestern province of Badghis, which is close to the border with Turkmenistan, officials said.

The focal point of the operation was the Bala Murghab district where, a few days ago, the Taliban had captured dozens of government forces in addition to overrunning several parts of the district, which serves as a gateway to the northern areas for the insurgents.

Several government troops fleeing the Taliban rampage crossed into neighboring Turkmenistan, officials said. 

One provincial official and a lawmaker from the province, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said that Turkmenistan was due to hand over the troops to Afghanistan on Monday.

Sayed Mohmmad Musa, a lawmaker from the province, said that hundreds of government troops have taken part in the operation, which had resulted in the deaths of several of the Taliban’s top commanders.

“Through the operation, the government wants to not only regain the control of the district, but is also trying to free those forces who either had to join the Taliban or were captured by them several days ago,” he said by phone.

“There is heavy fighting there and the government wants to end the Taliban threat because it is a strategic location,” he said.

Meanwhile, spokesmen for the defense and interior ministries did not answer repeated calls for comment about the government’s operation and about the Taliban’s rampage days ago.

In a statement released earlier, the ministry had said that 50 Taliban combatants had been killed.

There were conflicting reports about the number of troops who were captured by the Taliban and those who had fled to Turkmenistan, while the Taliban said 90 soldiers had surrendered.

The development comes amid continuing efforts in recent months by US diplomats and Taliban delegates for finding a peaceful settlement to the war. 

Both the Taliban and government forces, backed by the US military, have stepped up their attacks in a number of areas in the country.

Ahmad Saeedi, an analyst from Badghis, said the remoteness of the province, changes in the leadership of the ministry and confusion among troops about the peace process were some of the factors for the Taliban’s gains in Badghis.

“The time of US and Taliban formally announcing a deal has become closer; this has disheartened some troops in some parts of the country to keep on fighting,” Saeedi told Arab News.

Mirza Mohammed Yarmand, a military analyst and retired general, agreed. He told Arab News: “Unfortunately, the schism and differences among the political leaders of the country have caused disruption and slowness in the conduct of responsibilities of officers in the battlefield.”

He added: “Logistical shortcomings, the amount of attacks conducted by the enemy, (the government’s) failure to transport on time the war casualties from the battle ground and the amount of time officers spend in war zone, are among the reasons for incidents such as Bala Murghab.”

“When there is difference among the leaders that certainly impacts the moral of troops,” he said.