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Battle for control of barracks in Bissau

THE Senegalese army, fighting in support of Guinea-Bissau's president, insisted yesterday it had wrested control of a key military barracks in the capital Bissau from rebellious troops.

The Bra barracks had been a stronghold of renegade soldiers led by the former armed forces chief of staff Ansumane Mane, who launched an attempted coup against the government of President Joao Bernardo Vieira a week ago.

"Everything inside the camp, including the ammunition dump, is under our control," the Senegalese army spokesman Colonel Meissa said yesterday, a day after his army said it had seized the complex.

Tamba said there had been "some residual resistance" at the barracks and acknowledged that artillery fire from the rebels was landing within the large military compound. The Portuguese news agency Lusa quoted the rebel spokesman Major Gomes Fernandes on Sunday as calling the Senegalese claim "pure propaganda".

Fighting resumed in the capital Bissau on Sunday after a lull overnight, Lusa said. Over 3,000 people have been evacuated from Bissau since the revolt began on 7 June and diplomats say between 2,000 and 2,500 foreigners remain in the country.

A Senegalese boat was in Bissau port on Sunday, ready to evacuate some of them during a lull in the fighting.

"There was very fierce fighting this morning around the Bra barracks," the French ambassador to Guinea-Bissau Francois Chappellet said. "Now that it's quiet, I think it will be possible to evacuate some foreigners in the Senegalese ship," he added.

Senegal closed its border with Guinea-Bissau as soon as the revolt broke out but let in refugees on humanitarian grounds last week. An official in the north of Guinea said that around 1,400 people had sought refuge there since Friday.

About 200 people drowned on Friday as they tried to flee the mainland for the Bijagos Islands, part of Guinea-Bissau, Lusa reported. It gave no further details.