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Mutinous Presidential Guards Try to Kidnap Togo Leader

October 8, 1991

LOME, Togo (AP) _ Street violence broke out today after mutinous troops tried to kidnap Prime Minister Joseph Koffigoh, and a soldier killed four pro-democracy protesters, the security minister said.

It was the third botched coup attempt in a week by soldiers backing the former government of President Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema.

Security Minister Kokouvi Masseme said the situation was out of control in Tokoin, a neighborhood of this capital. Witnesses said demonstrators there ransacked the homes of two former ministers of Eyadema, who was stripped of his powers Aug. 27.

The protesters clashed with military and civilian supporters of Eyadema in Tokoin, where many people from the president’s Kabye tribe live.

In one incident, Masseme said a soldier in civilian clothes shot and killed four people. The main Lome hospital confirmed it received four bodies.

While the whereabouts of the leader of Togo’s transitional government remained a secret, Koffigoh broadcast a message on state radio saying he would not submit to ″blackmail by those possessed by the devil.″

His message described how a dozen gun-toting soldiers from the Presidential Guard of Eyadema broke into the hotel where he was staying at 2 a.m. and forced workers to lead them to his apartment.

Eyadema led this small West African nation for 24 years until a series of pro-democratic protests contributed to his fall from power.

Koffigoh, who was named to head an interim government, said he managed to escape and contact members of his government while the soldiers searched the hotel.

Rumors that Koffigoh had been arrested brought hundreds of young pro- democracy protesters into the streets, where they erected barricades that prevented people from getting to work.

Last Tuesday, soldiers backing Eyadema seized the state broadcasting center and demanded Koffigoh and his government resign. They returned to their barracks on orders from Eyadema, who denied plotting the revolt.

Four pro-democracy protesters who clashed with the mutineers were fatally shot then too, according to official figures.

Later that day, soldiers from the Presidential Guard captured the station and stopped broadcasts for a few hours. They made no demands before leaving the building.

Soldiers have been guarding the broadcasting station since then.

No arrests were made last week, but Koffigoh ordered an inquiry into the troubles, which were reported to have begun after he demoted some high-ranking military men.

The army has refused to recognize Koffigoh’s powers and those of a national conference for democracy that installed his government last month, leaving Eyadema president only in name.

Koffigoh was chosen to lead a transitional government to organize democratic elections, and also was named defense minister.

However, Eyadema is believed to have effective control of the army, which he stacked with tribal supporters.

Eyadema had been accused of torturing rivals to death and looting state coffers. He was forced to allow the conference after months of violent protests and strikes that culminated in the deaths of 28 unarmed demonstrators in April, allegedly at the hands of troops.

Demands for democracy has stripped power from four other military dictators and forced 16 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 49 governments to legalize political opposition.

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