An attempted coup in Gabon is now “under control” after four of five rebels were arrested, the west African nation’s government has said.
Earlier on Monday, soldiers appeared on state television saying they had launched a coup in a bid to “restore democracy” to the country, which is bordered by Republic of the Congo to the east, and Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea to the north.
In a statement read out by a soldier, flanked by two others holding guns, they said the military had seized power from the government and called on people to “rise up”.
Hours later, government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou said: “Calm has returned, the situation is under control.”
One of the rebels managed to escape and a manhunt is under way.
African Union chief Moussa Faki later condemned the attempted coup.
He tweeted: “The @_AfricanUnion strongly condemns the coup attempt this morning in #Gabon. I reaffirm the AU’s total rejection of all unconstitutional change of power.”
Those in the country’s capital, Libreville, reported seeing tanks and other armed military vehicles patrolling the streets following the television broadcast.
A curfew was imposed in the city and internet access was cut off as the attempted coup unfolded.
Despite people reporting “calm” in most of the capital, sporadic gunshots were heard at a radio station seized by rebels, according to a witness.
About 300 people gathered at the radio station in support of the coup but the military dispersed them using tear gas.
Since 2009, President Ali Bongo has been in power but has been out of the country since October following reports he had a stroke.
However, he recently addressed the country in a new year’s speech from a hospital bed in Morocco.
Gabon – one of Africa’s top oil producers – has been ruled by the Bongo family for more than 50 years.