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Faith Nyasuguta 

The Guinea-Bissau president has said he survived a coup attempt after being under heavy gunfire for some five hours.

Umaro Sissoco Embalo noted that the attackers tried to kill him and his entire cabinet at the government palace.

He confirmed that many others had been killed in the fighting on both sides. Local media reported at least 11 deaths by Friday morning.

On Tuesday, sustained gunfire was heard near the seat of government in the West African state, in what the African Union and the ECOWAS bloc dubbed an “attempted coup”.

In the afternoon, heavily-armed men surrounded the Government palace sparking fears of a coup attempt. President Embalo and Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam were believed to have gone to attend a cabinet meeting there.

A 36-year-old Frenchwoman living in Bissau, Kadeejah Diop, said she rushed to pick up her two children from school and witnessed armed troops entering the government complex.

“They made all the female workers leave. There was huge panic,” she told AFP over the phone. “Right now, we are holed up indoors. We have no news.”

Guinea-Bissau president Umaro Sissoco Embaló /AP/

In her view, troops set up a security perimeter around the palace and kept people away.

So far, the exact toll of the exchange of gunfire recounted in various accounts remains unknown but President Umaro Sissoco Embalo mentioned “many deaths“.

Following hours of uncertainty, Guinea-Bissau’s president Umaro Sissoco Embalo late Tuesday confirmed via twitter that the situation was under control.

“Calm seems to be back in the streets of Bissau. I am all well, praise be to God,” President Embalo wrote on Twitter. 

In line with the news of a possible coup, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)  issued a statement calling on soldiers to “return to their barracks” and saying they would be “held responsible for the well-being” of the president and government members.

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Faith Nyasuguta