Armed men attacked a military base in western Guinea overnight, killing the camp’s commander, the defence minister said on Friday, two days before the West African country votes in a bitterly-disputed presidential election.
Defence Minister Mohamed Diané provided few details about the attack in the city of Kindia, about 85 km outside the capital Conakry, but said in a statement that the situation was now under control.
The timing of the incident is likely to raise alarm. Voters head to the polls on Sunday to decide whether to award President Alpha Conde a third term in office, following a campaign marred by violence and divisive appeals to ethnic identities.
Diané identified the commander who was killed as Mamady Condé, who led a battalion of commandos at the Somoreyah base.
A security source, who asked not to be named, said the assailants were dressed in military attire and seized arms and vehicles before fleeing the scene.
Kindia residents said a prison in the city was also attacked, wounding an official there and allowing several inmates to escape.
Conde’s candidacy for a third term after ten years in power has drawn fierce criticism from his opponents, who say it violates the constitution.
Conde, 82, says he has the right to run again under a new constitution approved by referendum in March, arguing that it resets the clock on the two-term limit.
About 30 people were killed in protests before and after the referendum, and several people have been injured in clashes during the campaign between supporters of rival candidates.
Two days before the March referendum, gunfire broke out on a military base in Conakry, but it did not affect the vote.
Guinea is Africa’s top producer of bauxite, an aluminium ore, and export disruptions are likely around the election, said Eric Humphery-Smith, an analyst at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.