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1983: Grenada's prime minister 'assassinated'
The Prime Minister of Grenada, Maurice Bishop, has allegedly been shot dead by the armed forces at the Caribbean island's military headquarters in the capital St George's.

According to one witness, before he died Mr Bishop said: "My God, my God. They have turned the guns against the people".

Earlier, thousands of his supporters had marched to his residence in St George's where they managed to free the prime minister from house arrest.

Coup

Mr Bishop has led the country since 1979, when a coup toppled the country's controversial Prime Minister, Sir Eric Gairy.

His New Jewel Movement (NJM) is attempting what it calls a People's Revolution based on Marxist-Leninist ideology.

But within the NJM leadership factions and infighting have developed.

Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and General Hudson Austin, commander of the Grenadian Armed Forces, objected to Mr Bishop's decision to try and forge closer ties with the United States.

On 13 October the ruling party met and decidied Mr Bishop should be put under house arrest.

But in the last week there have been conflicting reports as to whether or not a military coup had taken place.

On 14 October, official radio reported the resignation of Mr Coard because of rumours he had plotted to kill the prime minister.

But in other reports the radical deputy prime minister is said to have taken power.

And on 17 October, General Austin denied there had been a military coup but said Mr Bishop had been expelled from the NJM for refusing to share power and disgracing the revolution.

Following the release of Mr Bishop from house arrest, he and his supporters had marched towards the military headquarters Fort Rupert where he believed loyal army officers were being detained.

On his arrival in the early afternoon, troops, commanded by General Austin, fired on the crowd and it is reported that dozens of demonstrators were killed.

General Austin has said that Mr Bishop was threatening to bring down the leadership of the armed forces and the NJM, and was killed as soldiers stormed the fort.

But other accounts say that Mr Bishop was taken prisoner and shot dead at Fort Rupert along with three ministerial colleagues and two union leaders.

Shooting could be heard from the military barracks.

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Maurice Bishop, Prime Minister of Grenada
Maurice Bishop has been leading a left-wing government since 1979


In Context
With Maurice Bishop as leader Grenada forged close links with Cuba and signed a weapons treaty with the USSR in 1982.

But towards the end of his premiership Mr Bishop showed signs of wanting to reverse Grenada's isolationist stance.

Also, there was pressure from his Caribbean neighbours to pave the way for elections and democratic reforms and the island was given a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

The hardline coup against Mr Bishop led to a US invasion of Grenada in the same month, causing international outrage.

President Ronald Reagan deployed 6,000 troops to the island to overthrow the coup leaders, who were put on trial for the murder of Mr Bishop and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment.

Constitutional government was put in place in 1984 and centre based parties have ruled the island ever since.

Supporters of Mr Bishop formed a socialist party, but divisions set in and by the 1989 elections they won no seats in the island's 15 member parliament and just 2% of the vote.

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