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E Guinea 'arrests' over shoot-out

File pic of Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema
President Nguema was reportedly not in his official residence at the time

The Equatorial Guinea authorities have reportedly arrested 15 people over an attack on the presidential palace in the capital Malabo earlier this week.

The country's state radio said those detained had been operating with other members of a Nigerian rebel group, according to AFP news agency.

It said several other attackers had been killed or wounded.

State TV is also quoted as saying that the attackers had used bazookas and homemade bombs in Tuesday's attack.

Nigeria's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), has denied involvement in the gun battle.

In a statement the group said the fighters were from Bakassi, a disputed peninsula on Nigeria's south east border, which was handed over to Cameroon in August last year.

The Nigerian government has denied it had any involvement with the attack.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema - who has ruled since 1979 after toppling his uncle in a coup - was reportedly not in his official residence at the time of the attack.

Palace 'body'

State TV showed what appeared to be bullet marks and smashed windows at the presidential palace and a body, which was said to belong to one of the attackers, wearing a black headband and carrying a machete.

Map

"Fifteen assailants have been arrested, one was killed in the heart of the presidential palace and several have been injured," the announcement on state radio said.

Several other attackers had been killed, state radio said, when their boats were destroyed before they reached Malabo, on the island of Bioko off West Africa's coast, about 200km (125 miles) from the Nigerian oil city of Port Harcourt.

State media attempted to pin blame for the attack on Mend.

The militants, who say they are fighting for a fairer distribution of wealth from Nigerian oil, have usually confined operations to southern Nigeria and its offshore oil installations.

But Mend has been linked to more ambitious attacks in recent months on vessels off the coast of Cameroon.

And Equatorial Guinea officials have said the group was linked to two bank robberies in the mainland city of Bata in December 2007.

Nigerian militants have been accused of being involved in a coup attempt in 2005.

Fighters were on their way to the island of Bioko when an argument on board the boat ended in a shoot out and the vessel turned back.

Tuesday's attack on the former Spanish colony has been condemned by the Spanish foreign ministry.

There was speculation that it might have been an attempt to rescue British mercenary Simon Mann.

He was sentenced to 34 years in jail last summer for his role in a 2004 coup plot in Equatorial Guinea.

The country, sub-Saharan Africa's third biggest oil producer, has suffered decades of instability.

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SEE ALSO
Country profile: Equatorial Guinea
15 Jul 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Equatorial Guinea
15 Jul 08 |  Country profiles



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