Gabon coup: ‘Situation under control’

A spokesperson for the government of Gabon has said the political situation in the country is “under control”, following an attempted military coup.

Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told the BBC that four of the rebels had been arrested by the authorities. A fifth is on the run.

Junior officers claimed they seized power “to restore democracy” in oil-rich Gabon, where the ailing leader’s family has ruled for 50 years.

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Tanks and armed vehicles could be seen in the capital Libreville.

Current leader Ali Bongo succeeded his father Omar Bongo as president in 2009. He narrowly won re-election in 2016 in a poll marred by violence and accusations of fraud.

What happened this morning?

Five soldiers took control of the national radio station at 04:30 local time (03:30 GMT) to read a short statement announcing a “National Restoration Council”.

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In a video circulating on social media, three young soldiers can be seen in a radio studio wearing military fatigues and holding guns.

Lt Kelly Ondo Obiang, who said he represented a group called the Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon, specifically appealed to young people to “take charge of their destiny”.

The insurgents called on soldiers to take control of the transport system, ammunition reserves and airports “in the interests of the nation”.

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The BBC’s Firmain Eric Mbadinga said the coup attempt came as a huge surprise. The army has always been seen as loyal to the Bongo family, he said, because it is dominated by the presidential guard, who mostly come from Mr Bongo’s home region.

Most of the capital remains calm, an eyewitness told the Reuters news agency.

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