The west-african state of Guinea was thrown into turmoil last night after the country's military leader was shot and wounded by a rebel leader of the presidential guard. Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who took power in a bloodless coup last year, was at a military camp in the capital Conakry when the shooting occurred.
The Communications Minister Idrissa Cherif said that Capt Camara's aide-de-camp, Aboubacar "Toumba" Diakite, was behind the attack. It remains unclear whether he has been arrested. Mr Cherif added that the 45-year-old Capt Camara was "doing well" and "out of danger".
"The President of the republic is still the President of the republic and he is in good health," Mr Cherif said as military helicopters and sporadic shooting could be heard in central Conakry. Reports from the city said gunfire broke out at about 1900 GMT last night near a radio station and a base of the presidential guard.
The incident underscores the deep rifts inside the military clique that grabbed control of the nation of 10 million on Africa's western coast just 11 months ago. Camara had initially promised to quickly organise elections, but then reversed course and began hinting that he planned to run for office himself, prompting large scale protests in the capital on 28 September.
Mr Toumba is accused of having led the presidential guard that day, who reportedly opened fire on the peaceful protesters that had gathered inside the capital's national stadium and also assaulted them with bayonets, rifle butts and pieces of wood. Activists claim that at least 157 people were killed and dozens of women were raped by soldiers in broad daylight. The government say 58 people were killed, mostly in a stampede.
Survivors have since claimed that at least 20 women were kidnapped and driven away in military trucks to private villas where they were drugged and gang-raped over the course of several days. Tensions have been high in Conakry ever since. The massacre led the European Union and the African Union to impose sanctions on Guinea.
On seizing power last December, Capt Camara was initially popular with the public, promising to return the country to civilian rule. However, since appearing to renege on that promise he has become a highly unpopular figure.
Arms embargoes and travel restrictions have been imposed against the junta by the European Union and West African alliance Ecowas.
Sources inside the military say this has deeply aggravated divisions that were already present amongst Camara and his top aides. Members of the junta, including Toumba, are believed to lead private armies that are faithful only to them.
A UN mission was in Conakry this week investigating the massacre and interviewed top military commanders in order to try to understand how the orders were given. Mr Toumba, as well as Capt Camara and several others, may face charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. The EU has called for Capt Camara to be tried for crimes against humanity, while the African Union urged him to stand down. But the government has denied all wrongdoing and blamed opposition leaders for going ahead with the banned protest.
Earlier yesterday one of Capt Camara's top commanders, Moussa "Tiegboro" Camara, testified to a national commission investigating the killings that he saw no bodies inside the stadium and that footage captured on cell phones of women being raped by the presidential guard were "montages".
Speaking on last night's shooting, Mr Cherif said that it was clear that Mr Toumba's intention was to kill the leader. "When you pull a gun on someone, is it your intention to scare him? No. Your intention is to kill him," he said.
He declined to say whether the shot grazed or wounded Camara, or whether anyone else in his entourage was hurt. He repeated that he was "doing well" and that "the situation is under control"
In a recently released report, the US-based Human Rights Watch said that Mr Toumba was clearly aware of the rapes being committed by men under his control and yet did nothing to stop them. They cite an opposition leader who described how he was led away by Mr Toumba and passed women in agony.Reuse content