BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau – The soldier who led a failed coup attempt last week in Guinea-Bissau was arrested, the spokesman for the armed forces said Sunday.
Pansau Ntchama was arrested Saturday outside the capital, Bissau, said spokesman Dahaba Na Walna. He said that the country's ex-army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Zamora Induta, was also behind the Oct. 21 coup attempt. Ntchama was a commando and Induta's bodyguard before the ex-army chief fled Guinea-Bissau in the wake of the last coup in April. Induta is now in Portugal, Walna said. Ntchama had sought exile in Portugal after allegedly carrying out the 2009 assassination of Guinea-Bissau's former president.
"It was an attempt from the outside," said Walna.
The government last week said that Ntchama had traveled from Portugal to Gambia, then to Angola to pick up arms and into Guinea-Bissau to carry out the attack. Gunmen led by Ntchama attacked a military base near the airport in Bissau on Oct. 21, and six soldiers were killed in the clash. At least four of the six killed were assailants working with Ntchama. They were from the Djola ethnic group, which is the dominant ethnic group both in Gambia and in the Casamance region of southern Senegal, two countries that neighbor Guinea-Bissau.
The army fought back and the coup failed.
The apparent attempted coup was against the military junta that itself seized power in April. Guinea-Bissau was just weeks away from holding a presidential runoff election when soldiers attacked the front-runner's home and arrested him along with the country's interim president on April 12.
Troubled Guinea-Bissau has had so many coups and countercoups that no elected leader has been able to complete his term in the 38 years since Guinea-Bissau won its independence from Portugal. The tiny nation, roughly three times the size of the state of Connecticut, has also become one of the main transit points for Europe-bound cocaine, shipped in from Latin America. Factions within the army are known to be involved in the trafficking and analysts believe that much of the country's recent turmoil is the result of turf wars over the control of cocaine trafficking.