YAOUNDI: Cameroonian police have arrested a group of nearly 40 heavily armed men who were headed into neighbouring Equatorial Guinea, a military source said Friday.
Equatorial Guinea’s Ambassador to France, Miguel Oyono Ndong Mifumu, referred to the incident as an “invasion and destabilisation attempt”, according to his office.
The 38 suspects, who were taken into custody Wednesday in a bus on Cameroon’s border with the tiny nation to its south, had rocket launchers, rifles and lots of ammunition, his office added.
Military and local police have launched a probe into the intentions of the men, who were nationals of Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.
In 2004, mercenaries attempted to stage a coup in Equatorial Guinea — thought to be largely funded by British financiers.
Mark Thatcher, son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, was reportedly involved in funding the coup and was convicted and fined in South Africa.
The arrest of the armed men on Wednesday came a day before “dozens” of activists from Equatorial Guinea’s main opposition Citizens for Innovation (CI) party were detained at its headquarters in the capital Malabo and the port city of Bata.
The party said at least 50 activists had already been detained since a November 12 general election that saw the ruling party of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema win a landslide victory with 92 per cent of the vote.
The election was widely criticised by opposition groups as fraudulent.
Equatorial Guinea, which also borders Gabon, is one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population still lives in poverty.