Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Cissoco Embalo accused on Thursday a former head of the national navy and two other men arrested in the past by the U.S. anti-drug agency of being behind what he described as the abortive February 1 coup attempt.
Embalo told reporters the names of former Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, head of the navy during the first decade of the 2000s, Tchamy Yala, also a former officer, and Papis Djemé. All were arrested after the events of February 1, the head of state said.
He presented the February 1 coup as directly linked to drug trafficking.
Ten days ago, Guinea-Bissau was the scene of yet another coup in its troubled history since independence from Portugal in 1974. The Government Palace which is the seat of ministries, was attacked that day by armed men while the president and members of the government were holding a council of ministers. The president emerged unharmed after hours of gunfire that left 11 people dead, according to the government.
“I’m not saying that it’s the politicians who are behind this, but the hand that carries the weapons are people who are linked to the big drug cartels,” said President Embalo, before naming the three men.
He recalled that all three had been in trouble with the US justice system.
They were arrested in April 2013 by agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) aboard a boat in international waters off the coast of West Africa. According to the U.S. justice system, they had negotiated in the previous months, with U.S. investigators posing as representatives of South American drug traffickers, the importation of cocaine into Guinea-Bissau, which would then have been redistributed in North America or Europe.
José Americo Bubo Na Tchuto had been designated as a drug lord by the U.S. Treasury.
He was sentenced in 2016 to four years in prison in New York. Tchamy Yala and Papis Djemé were sentenced in 2014, also in New York, to five and six and a half years in prison.
They have since returned to Guinea-Bissau.
President Embalo reported that while he was trapped inside the Government House and fighting was raging outside, “Bubo was already at the Navy headquarters and in military uniform.” “At one point, I heard one of the attackers say, ‘Wait, we’ll call him to send us reinforcements.
Guinea-Bissau, a small country of about two million people in West Africa.