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AFRICA: Military coup underway in Guinea-Bissau

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Guinea-Bissau map.

Military took control of a central district in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, western Africa, in an apparent coup in the midst of ongoing elections, TV news channel al-Jazeera reported on Thursday with reference to information provided to the Associated Press and other news sources.

A diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AP that the country’s interim president and prime minister were missing, al-Jazeera reported.

An AFP correspondent states that the military had taken control of the ruling party headquarters and national radio station.

Reuters reported that heavy weapons fire had echoed through the capital on Thursday, as soldiers surrounded the residence of former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, the frontrunner in a presidential election in the small state.

The reason for the military action and Gomes Junior’s whereabouts were not immediately known, according to Reuters. Armed soldiers stopped journalists from approaching the residence, which is located almost opposite the Angolan embassy in the capital Bissau.

“There is some trouble. We don’t know what it is. There is shooting, sporadic machine gun fire and there have been three loud bangs … We hear it is coming from near Carlos Gomes Junior’s house,” a diplomat in the capital Bissau told Reuters earlier in the day.

On Friday, many details regarding the alleged coup were not confirmed and the exact status of Guinea-Bissau’s current leadership remained unknown, AP reported.

Guinea-Bissau is a poor, former Portuguese West African colony with a history of coups and army revolts. The country is currently in the middle of two rounds of voting to elect a new president to replace Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in a Paris hospital in January after a long illness, Reuters reports.

The apparent ongoing coup comes just weeks after a coup by rebels in Mali, northern Africa.

The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.