20 February 2009

Equatorial Guinea: Authorities Say Attack Was Not Coup Plot

Equato-Guinean officials and the spokesperson of the Spanish Foreign Ministry, have declared that the attack on the Equato-Guinean Presidency, in the early hours of February 17, was a not a coup plot.

The close to four hours shoot-out between government forces and an armed gang believed to be members of the Nigerian Delta Rebels group that sneaked into Bata, according to the officials, was an armed robbery attempt and not a coup plot to topple Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Recalling the 2007 incident where an armed gang attacked and robbed banks of millions FCFA in Bata, defenders of the regime in Equatorial Guinea say the February 17 attack was geared towards the same aim.

Other opinions hold that the attack might have been a desperate attempt to liberate Simon Mann, a British Secret Service Officer who was charged of involvement in a coup plot against Obiang Nguema in March 2004.

He is presently detained at the Black Beach Prison in Bata. Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was also accused of involvement in the coup attempt that was aimed at bringing in Severo Moto Nsa, an Equato-Guinean living in exile to replace Obiang Nguema.

However, reports monitored from Yaounde, indicate that by the time of the attack, Obiang Nguema had left the Presidential Palace after a tip-off.It is alleged that one of the Ministers under Obiang Nguema's government was killed in the attack.

Two of the assailants were also reportedly killed, one of the high speed boats destroyed and a score of its crew members suspected to be pirates that have been causing havoc in the Gulf of Guinea, drowned in the Atlantic Ocean.

Since 2001 when massive extraction of petroleum started in Equatorial Guinea, the country has been a source of attraction both to Western nations thirsty for the black gold and job seekers.

According to the Ministry of Mines in Bata, Equatorial Guinea is one of the top 30 producers of petroleum in the world and the third richest country south of the Sahara in petroleum deposits.

Going by statistics of the Bank of Central African States, BEAC, Equatorial Guinea registered 4.3 billion US dollars as income from the sale of petroleum in 2007 representing about 90 percent of its GDP.

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