Armed men surrounded the government palace, where President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam were believed to have gone to attend a cabinet meeting. The state broadcaster reported that the shooting has damaged the government palace, which is located close to the airport, and that “invaders” are holding government officials.
Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar in neighbouring Senegal, said it was unclear whether the gunfire was the presidential guards trying to protect the president, or if there was an attack on the government palace. The whereabouts of the president and the prime minister remain unknown at this time, he said.
People were seen fleeing the area, the local markets were closed and banks shut their doors, while military vehicles laden with troops drove through the streets, according to AFP news agency.
If confirmed, this would be the second coup in West Africa in as many weeks after the military seized power in Burkina Faso last week.
The West African regional bloc ECOWAS condemned what it described as an attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau, which has a history of political instability.
“ECOWAS is following with great concern the evolution of the situation in Guinea-Bissau…where military gunfire is taking place around the government palace,” the organisation said. “ECOWAS condemns this attempted coup and holds the military responsible for the safety of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and members of his government.”