Precede CONAKRY, Guinea
Undated (AP) _ The army of Guinea today foiled an attempt by former Prime Minister Diara Traore to overthrow President Lansana Conte, the government of the West African nation announced in a communique broadcast on state radio.
An unspecified number of civilians were killed in the thwarted coup, a government minister was quoted as saying.
Conte, 52, was in Lome, Togo, to attend a summit meeting of the 16-member Economic Community of West Africa, of which he is acting chairman.
The broadcast over Radio Conakry said the overnight coup attempt in the impoverished African country was foiled through ″the vigilance of the Guinean people″ and the ″action of the army.″
The broadcast gave no indication of the fate of the 50-year-old Diara Traore, most recently minister of state for education, who helped Conte seize power in April 1984.
In an interview with Radio France Internationale, Jean Traore, minister of planning and natural resources, was quoted as saying an holed at Radio Conakry where the coup attempt was mounted, and said government forces were conducting a house-to-house search for Diara Traore.
Jean Traore was quoted as saying it was difficult to determine the number of people involved in the plot or who was behind it.
Meanwhile, Guinea’s Foreign Ministry called on embassies in the capital of Conakry to turn over any rebels who may have taken refuge there.
A government statement broadcast over state radio called for calm and urged Guineans to ″avoid all acts of pillage.″ The radio said harbors and airports were being shut to stop the plotters of the coup from escaping.
Diara Traore announced on Radio Conakry late Thursday that he had taken power to end ″15 months of total disappointment″ with Conte’s regime. He charged Conte with a ″lust for personal power″ and said he failed to promote economic development.
Following his announcement, the radio alternated martial music with rebroadcasts of Diara Traore’s statement. The broadcasts were monitored in neighboring Ivory Coast and by the British Broadcasting Corp. in London.
The radio went off the air early today and then resumed broadcasting to announce that the army ″has taken control of the situation.″
Conte’s foreign minister, Facine Toure, told reporters in Lome that Conte had no statement to make. Conte was expected to address the summit’s opening session and then fly home this afternoon, a member of his delegation said.
Diara Traore was among 15 middle-level army officers who seized power in a bloodless coup April 3, 1984, and pledged to ″create the basis for a true democracy.″ At the time, he was the second-ranking officer in the junta under Conte and was named prime minister.
The post was abolished in a Cabinet shuffle last December, and Diara Traore was named minister of state for education, a move that was seen as a demotion.
One Paris-based diplomat said the attempted coup probably had more to do with ethnic and personal rivalries than political differences.
The diplomat said Conte believed the flamboyant Diara Traore was trying to upstage him with frequent visits abroad.
Tribal differences added to the conflict, the diplomat said. Diara Traore’s Malinke tribe, together with the Peul tribe, makes up about 60 percent of the population, compared to about 18 percent for Conte’s Soussous tribe.
Conte took power eight days after the death of Ahmed Sekou Toure, who wielded autocratic power for more than 25 years.
The junta led by Conte blasted Sekou Toure’s regime as a ″bloody and ruthless dictatorship″ and pledged to respect freedom of expression and encourage free enterprise.
Conte said he was willing to accept aid from both the East and West blocs, ending the close links to the Soviet Union developed under Sekou Toure.
Guinea, with a population of 5.5 million, proclaimed independence from France in 1958. Despite its rich deposits of bauxite, high-grade iron ore, diamonds, gold and uranium, the country is one of the world’s poorest.