Africa

US warns Guinea-Bissau over drug barons in the military

Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto
Image caption Ex-navy chief Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto was named as a "drug kingpin"

The US has warned Guinea-Bissau that it will not help in international efforts to reform its armed forces unless they were purged of suspected drugs lords.

In April, the US named two senior military men of drug running days after a mutineer ousted the army chief.

A statement from the US embassy in Senegal said it was alarmed at their continuing trafficking involvement.

It questioned the government's control of the armed forces as the army chief was still being detained by mutineers.

In recent years the tiny West African nation has become a major transit hub for cocaine smuggled from Latin America to Europe and suffered much political unrest as a result.

It has more than 80 largely uninhabited islands off its coast which are handy smuggling points for traffickers.

Influential

In April, Guinea-Bissau's air force head Ibraima Papa Camara and former navy chief Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto were named by the US as "drug kingpins", and had their US-based assets frozen.

"It will be impossible for the United States to contribute to the security and defense reform process if these or other individuals implicated in narcotics trafficking are appointed to or continue to serve in positions of authority in the armed forces," the embassy statement said.

Analysts say Mr Na Tchuto is still hugely influential behind the scenes.

He was reportedly freed during the April mutiny from a UN building in the capital, Bissau, where he had taken refuge since December last year.

He had returned to the country after spending a year in exile in The Gambia following a coup attempt he was accused of leading in 2008.

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