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G.Bissau to retire 400 troops under military reform
by Staff Writers
Bissau (AFP) Jan 4, 2012

About 400 troops will retire from Guinea Bissau's army this month under military sector reforms in the coup-prone country, Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior said Wednesday.

The move comes weeks after the government said it had foiled an attempted coup in the poor West African country that is also a major cocaine trafficking hub.

The premier said that "the government is working with its partners so that the military reform is effective, and 400 soldiers will leave the army on January 23".

He made the comments at a meeting with veterans of the anti-colonial war against Portugal who had offered him their support after the failed coup.

To pay for the troops' pensions, the government had set aside $700,000 in a pension fund, received $8 million from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and was also expecting funds from Angola, he said.

On December 26, troops overran the armed forces headquarters in the capital in what the authorities later described as a failed coup attempt led by the navy chief, who is now under arrest.

Deadly clashes erupted the following night as loyalist forces hunted suspected coup plotters.

Later 25 troops arrested for their role in the alleged coup plot, including the navy chief, were paraded in front of journalists.

The country's armed forces officially number 4,458 men but, according to studies by the European Commission, which has been helping implement the reforms since 2007, the country has three times more soldiers.

Once the reform is completed, the number should be reduced to 3,500 men.

Algerian troops seize arms on Niger border
Algiers (AFP) Jan 4, 2012 - Algerian soldiers have intercepted a convoy of vehicles on the border with Niger carrying a heavy consignment of arms, the defence ministry said Wednesday.

The four-vehicle convoy was "transporting individuals from different African nations who were trying to bring through a big cargo of arms and ammunition," said a statement quoted by the official APS news agency.

The cargo included 71 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 38 machine guns, two RPG-7 rocket launchers and other weapons, it said, without providing details of where the arms came from or the nationalities of the people in the convoy.

With the fall of Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi, Algeria and other countries in the region such as Niger have expressed security fears following the return of thousands of Tuareg combatants to their homelands.

The sub-region is already facing security challenges from Al-Qaeda, drug and arms traffickers.

In the past two decades the traditionally nomadic desert people numbering about 1.5 million have posed serious security risks, especially for Mali and Niger, with periodic uprisings over complaints of being marginalised by their governments.

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