Special operations coup in Guinea trained by the US

The Guinean special forces unit that carried out the coup has been trained by the US Green Berets since July for the purpose of fighting terrorism.

Gunfire rang out as the Guinean special forces unit stormed the presidential palace in the capital Conakry on the morning of September 5 and arrested President Alpha Conde, overthrowing the elected government. Guinea and Western officials say at least 11 people were killed in gun battles outside the presidential palace.

Hours later, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya appeared on television and declared himself the new leader of Guinea. The United States, the United Nations and the African Union condemned the coup, saying the US military did not know about it in advance. However, the US knew Colonel Doumbouya very well.

A group of about 10 U.S. Army green berets was sent to Guinea in mid-July to train about 100 soldiers in the special operations unit under Colonel Doumbouya.

The 41-year-old officer served for many years in the French Legion, participated in exercises with the US and was a close ally of former President Conde.

Colonel Mamady Doumbouya (wearing a red hat and dark glasses) after a meeting with the West African Economic Community delegation on September 10 in Conakry.  Photo: AP.

Colonel Mamady Doumbouya (wearing a red hat and dark glasses) after a meeting with the West African Economic Community delegation on September 10 in Conakry. Photo: AP.

When the US Green Berets learned of the September 6 coup, they drove to the embassy in the capital Conakry and the training program for Guinean special forces soldiers was suspended. Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokesman Kelly Cahalan said the coup was “inconsistent with the US military education and training program”.

US officials initially said the base where US special forces trained Guinean soldiers was in Forecariah, near the border with Sierra Leone and a four-hour drive from the presidential palace.

However, US officials said on September 10 that they were investigating information that Colonel Doumbouya and the soldiers involved in the coup departed from this base in the early morning of September 5, when the American trainers were sleeping. .

“We have no detailed information on how the Guinean military gained power and there is no indication of this,” said Bardha Azari, another AFRICOM spokesman.

Video posted on social media recently showed Guineans cheering around a vehicle carrying US special forces on September 5. Locals chanted “freedom,” and an American soldier smiled and touched one of them.

US officials said the task force in the video was on its way back to the US embassy, ​​but denied the country supported the coup in Guinea. “The U.S. government and military are not involved in any form in the Guinean military’s seizure of power,” AFRICOM spokesman Azari said.

Special operations coup in Guinea trained by the US

Guineans cheer around the vehicle carrying the US special forces team back to the embassy in the capital Conakry on September 5. Video: NY Times.

Colonel Doumbouya claimed he was forced to seize power because of the actions of Conde, who was first elected president of Guinea in 2010. Doumbouya accused Conde of not helping to improve the situation in the country and facilitating corruption.

The coup forces released a video showing Conde sitting on a sofa with a bored expression, surrounded by soldiers with full equipment and weapons. Colonel Doumbouya refused to disclose the location of Conde’s detention, but some foreign representatives said the former Guinea president was in good health.

Doumbouya attracted public attention during the 60th anniversary of Guinea’s independence in October 2018, when it marched with the newly formed special forces unit in the capital Cornakry.

A photo taken at the time shows Doumbouya standing outside the US embassy with three US military officers. US officials say they do not understand why Doumbouya organized the coup while working closely with them.

This is not the first time coups in Africa have cast a shadow over US military training programs there. When insurgents swept into the desert region of northern Mali in 2012, the commander of US-trained Mali special forces units defected at a crucial moment and refueled the rebels.

Nguyen Tien (Follow NY Times)

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