Gunmen attack palace in Equatorial Guinea

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Gunmen in motor boats attacked the presidential palace in oil-producing Equatorial Guinea’s island capital yesterday before being repelled by the armed forces, the government said. It added that the attackers came from nearby Nigeria’s Niger Delta, where seaborne raiding parties have grown increasingly bold in the past two years, launching raids against banks and other targets in neighbouring countries.

Residents said government forces used a helicopter gunship to repulse the pre-dawn attack. The former Spanish colony has suffered decades of instability and in 2004 dozens of foreign mercenaries, mostly South Africans, were caught trying to overthrow the president.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was in Bata, in the part of Equatorial Guinea on mainland Africa, the Spanish state news agency EFE and a source in Malabo said. Although the government said the gunmen had tried to seize the presidential palace, Spain’s Foreign Ministry said the attack appeared to be criminal in nature, rather than an attempted coup d’état.