NAIROBI, Kenya - US Green Berets were training local forces in South Africa 'Where is. nation of Guinea last weekend when their charges flew off on a mission not listed in any military training manual: they mounted a coup.
Shots rang out as elite Guinean The special forces unit stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, on early Sunday, deposing the president of the country, Alpha Conde, 83 years old. A few hours later, a young charismatic officer, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, announced himself as the new leader of Guinea.
The Americansknew well.
A team of a dozen Green Berets had been in Guinea since mid-July to train a hundred soldiers in a special forces unit led by Colonel Doumbouya, who served for years in the French Foreign Legion, participated in US military exercises and was once a close ally of the president who he overturned.
For the Pentagon, however , it'san embarrassment. The United States has trained troops in many African countries, largely for counterterrorism programs but also for the general purpose of supporting civilian-led governments.
And although many US-trained officers have taken power in their countries, most notably General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, this is believed to be the first time 'we do it in the middle of an American military class.
Sunday, after the Green Berets realize that a hit State was underway, they went directly to the US Embassy in Conakry, and the training program was suspended, said Kelly Cahalan, US Command spokesperson for Africa. The coup, she said, is "incompatible with the military training and education of the United States". was in Forecariah, a four hour drive frompresidential palace, near the Guinean with Sierra Leone.
But on Friday, US officials said they were investigating reports that Colonel Doumbouya and his fellow coup plotters had left in an armed convoy from this same base early Sunday, which suggests that they escaped while their instructors were sleeping. Image Col. Mamady Doumbou ya, center, after a meeting with a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States on Friday in Conakry. Credit ... Sunday Alamba / Associated Press
" We have no information on how the military takeover is happening.nte happened, and no prior indication of these events, "said Bardha S. Azari, also spokesman for the US Africa Command, in an email.
The coup d 'etat in Guinea, the fourth military takeover in West Africa in 12 months, after two coups d ' etat in Mali and a contested succession in Chad has fueled fears of a democratic retreat in a coup-prone region of Africa.
The unease among US officials over their proximity to the coup leaders has been made even worse by video footage circulating in recent days that showed US military officers smiling into a crowd of cheerful Guineans on September 5, the day of the coup.
As a four-wheel drive vehicle with Guinean soldiers perched at the rear crosses the crowd chanting "Liberty," aAmerican seems to be touching hands with jubilant people.
"If the Americans are involved in the putsch, it is because of their mining interests", said Diapharou Balde, teacher in Conakry - a reference to The huge Guinean deposits of gold, iron ore and bauxite, which is used to make aluminum.
US officials confirmed the video showed green berets returning to the US Embassy on Sunday, but denied that it involved support at the coup. "The US government and military are not in any way involved in this apparent military takeover," spokeswoman Ms. Azari said. Video
Times verified video shows cars with American green berets driving throughs h a cheering crowd near the US embassy in Conakry, the Guinean capital, on September 5, after a military coup toppled the president. The clip circulated widely on social media, and some Guineans interpreted the footage as tacit US support for the coup, which the US government condemned.
For many Guineans, the American cameo role in the coup was only part of a dizzying week of change spurred by Colonel Doumbouya , 41, now the second youngest leader of an African state.
The youngest is in neighboring Mali, where Colonel Assimi Goïta came to food only in May, also following a coup d'etat .
After an hour-long shooting in front of the presidential palace on Sunday in which at least 11 people were killed, Guinean and Western officials said, Colonel Doumbouya appeared on state television ision wearing sunglasses and draped with the tricolor of Guinea.
He said he was forced to take power because of the actions by President Conde, a former democracy activist elected president in 2010 after a previous coup d 'etat paved the way for elections.
But Mr Conde's legitimacy collapsed last year after he amended the constitution to allow him to run for a third term, which he won. After the election, more than 400 political opponents were cast out. in the squalid prisons of Guinea, where at least four have died, Amnesty International said.
The images which circulated after the coup d 'etat show a disheveled Mr. Conde, surrounded by soldiers, slumped on a sofa and looking dejected. Colonel Doumbouya declined to say where he is being held, although envoys from the principals and the economic bloc met with Conde on Friday and said he was in good health.
The president was ousted by an officer whose career he blessed.
Colonel Doumbouya caught the public attention in October 2018 during the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the independence of Guinea, while he parade the new ones formed a unit of sp forceseciales in the center of Conakry. Images of the parade went viral on Guinean social networks.
"People were very impressed with the soldiers' choreography and the synchronized movement of their soldiers. vehicles, "said Issaka K. Souare, director of the Sahel and West Africa program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Mr. Conde, in a 2018 interview, praised the young officer - another member of the Mae tribe. Colonel Doumbouya, as a French legionnaire, served in Afghanistan and the Côte d ' Ivoire and underwent commando training in Israel, according to his official biography.
Married to a French military police officer, he is also a French citizen and graduated in defense studies at a Parisian university.
Although the public disaffectionWhilst Mr. Conde laid the foundation for the coup, it was also fueled by latent rivalries within Guinea's defense establishment, said a Western official and analyst, who did not could not be identified due to the sensitivity of the case.
They claimed that tensions had increased between Colonel Doumbouya and the Guinean Minister of Defense, Mohamed Diane. Fearing a coup in the capital, Mr. Diane moved the Special Forces unit to the Forecariah base.
Colonel Doumbouya complained publicly that his unit was running out of resources.
US officials have known Colonel Doumbouya since the start of his ascension. A photo posted to the US Embassy's Facebook page in October 2018 showed him standing with three US military officials outside.ur from the United States Embassy. Image Col. Mamady Doumbouya, center, in an October 15, 2018 Facebook post from the U.S. Embassy.
But on Friday, US officials said they were puzzled why he would choose to mount a coup when he was working closely with the Americans.
This is not the first time that African coups have cast a shadow over American training programs on the continent. As insurgents surged into the desert of northern Mali in 2012, commanders of elite US-trained elite army units defected at a critical moment, taking troops , trucks,weapons and their new skills to the enemy.
Declan Walsh reported from Nairobi, Kenya, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Abdourahmane Diallo has contributed reporting from Conakry, Guinea, and Christiaan Triebert from New York.