LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ Foreign diplomats are attempting to broker a cease-fire between loyalist troops and rebels fighting for control of the capital of Guinea-Bissau, the country’s interim prime minister said today.
Francisco Fadul said in a telephone interview from Bissau that fighting intensified overnight between a breakaway military faction and the mostly Senegalese troops supporting President Joao Bernardo Vieira.
``There’s a lot of automatic weapon fire and a lot of heavy shelling,″ Fadul said.
At least 35 people have died and 220 have been wounded since the fighting flared Sunday in the West African nation, aid workers have said.
Fadul said the foreign and defense ministers of Togo were due to arrive in Bissau this morning to try to negotiate a truce between the two sides.
Separate efforts at halting the fighting were being made by the ambassadors of Portugal, France and Sweden, according to Fadul.
He declined to give further details, but the diplomats previously have said they are seeking to hold the foes to a November peace accord that had halted last year’s five-month civil war in the former Portuguese colony.
The peace pact called for the withdrawal of foreign troops, a peacekeeping deployment, a government of national unity and general elections in March.
The rebellion, which first broke out last June, was triggered by the dismissal of rebel leader Brig. Ansumane Mane as top military commander for allegedly running guns to separatist fighters in Senegal. Mane denies the charge and alleges that Vieira was behind the scheme.
Most of the country’s 6,000-strong army have joined the rebellion aimed at deposing Vieira. The insurgents charge Vieira is corrupt.
Meanwhile, a ship carrying more than 200 refugees, including 95 children, which ran aground on a sand bank outside Bissau port was pulled free by another vessel Tuesday night, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.