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More held as islands recover from coup

Published Mar 22, 2000

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By Kamardine Mohamed

Moroni - The Comoran army have arrested more people, including a second son of the island's first president and a Frenchman, after Tuesday's failed coup, officials said.

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The authorities detained Captain Abderemane Ahmed Abdallah, son of founding president Ahmed Abdallah, officials said. The other son, former agriculture minister Mahamoud Ahmed Abdallah was arrested on Tuesday.

The government said the Frenchman, 49-year-old Daniel Clerino, who lives on the nearby French-ruled island of Reunion, had already confessed to involvement in the putsch.

"This man has acknowledged his participation in this coup," said Defence Minister Hamada Madi Bolero. "He said he had been misled by the sons of Ahmed Abdallah."

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Clerino arrived in Moroni, the capital of the main island of Grande Comore, on Saturday, he added.

Sources said the army had also detained several soldiers and civilians after the Comoros's 19th coup attempt since independence from France in 1975. It was unclear how many people had been arrested so far.

The situation was calm in Moroni. Shops, schools and offices were open as normal; there were no soldiers on the streets and most people were going about their business as usual.

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Rumours of army unrest

Interior Minister Mohamed Abdou Soimadou told state radio on Tuesday night that the situation was under control. He promised a thorough investigation into the attempted coup, which followed rumours of army disgruntlement over sharing power with civilians.

"We will be firm in the investigation over this lamentable adventure. I would like to (be) precise that this adventure has been very isolated within the army," said Soimadou.

The authorities believed one of the brains behind the attempt was a former finance minister, Said Said Hamadi, who is thought to be in France.

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The Comoros, picturesque volcanic islands 300km off the east coast of Africa, have a long history of instability.

The leader, Colonel Azaly Assoumani, who is in Saudi Arabia for the Muslim Haj pilgrimage, himself took power in a coup in April 1999.

Notorious French mercenary Bob Denard has been a constant shadow over the small islands, participating in a number of coups up until 1995, when the French army foiled his last attempt.

Abdallah, the islands' first president, was killed during a 1989 coup led by Denard.

His son, a former army captain, was sentenced to death in 1993 for leading another attempted coup in 1992, but was released by Denard in 1995.

Attempts by the Organisation of African Unity to end army rule have been fruitless.

Azaly took power promising to install an elected government within one year, but there has been no word on when elections will be held.

The islands have suffered a long-running secession crisis since the island of Anjouan unilaterally declared independence from the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros in August 1997. - Reuters

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