Gabon arrests four military officers after coup attempt

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"Four have been arrested and one is on the run", said Gabon spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou.

By BBC Online Soldiers in Gabon have attempted a coup, announcing the establishment of a "restoration council" after taking over the national radio station.

In the statement, Ondo Obiang Kelly, lieutenant of the Republican Guard, announced that they were disappointed by the message delivered on December 31 by President Ali Bongo, which "rather heightened doubts about his ability to assume the office of President of the Republic".

President Ali Bongo Ondimba has been out of Gabon since October while receiving medical treatment for what many believe was a stroke he suffered while attending a conference in Saudi Arabia.

Since 2009, President Ali Bongo has been in power but has been out of the country since October following reports he had a stroke.

The US military has deployed soldiers and equipment to Gabon amid fears of violent protests in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after its contested presidential election.

But a section of the populace was unimpressed by the video as the president was said to have slurred some of his words and his right arm remained immobile throughout the speech.

Earlier on Monday, the Gabonese government said that it had quashed a coup attempt in the country.

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Beijing has also defended its decision to bar the three United States citizens from leaving the country in November. This includes effectively banning members of a family from China to lure a relative back to the country.

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The timing is likely to draw some attention to the presence of USA forces in Gabon, as they were announced to have deployed only on Friday, and the coup happened literally the next business day. "We call on authorities in Gabon to immediately and fully restore access to the internet and lift all restrictions on broadcasting".

"The eagerly awaited day has arrived when the army has chose to put itself on the side of the people in order to save Gabon from chaos", he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday condemned the attempt to topple President Bongo.

Critics have accused the family of profiting from the country's natural resources while not investing enough in basic services for the population of more than two million.

The Bongo family has governed the equatorial African nation for five decades. His constitutional powers were recently transferred to the Prime Minister and Deputy President.

In the brief speech, 59-year-old Bongo declared the country was "indivisible" and acknowledged his health problems without giving details.

Ali Bongo has been president of Gabon since 2009.

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