Equatorial Guinea’s armed forces fought off an attack on the presidential palace on Tuesday by gunmen believed to have come by boat from nearby Nigeria’s Niger Delta, the government said in a statement.

At least one assailant was killed in an exchange of fire in the presidency and some others drowned when their boat was sunk by the Navy the statement added. It said the situation was now under control.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was in Bata, in the part of Equatorial Guinea on mainland Africa, the Spanish state news agency EFE and a source in Malabo said.

“We were woken up to gunfire at about 4 a.m. It lasted for about three hours. It was coming from the presidency. Now it is calm,” one resident, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

“We don’t know what is happening. We are waiting for information. For now the city is blocked off. We can’t get in.”

Although the government said the gunmen had tried to seize the presidential palace, Spain’s Foreign Ministry said the attack appeared to be criminal in nature, rather than an attempted coup d’etat.

Obiang’s government denounced the attack in its statement as nothing more than the “usual manoeuvres of our eternal enemies” and called on the population to be patriotic and collaborate with the armed forces to denounce those who might be suspicious.

Previous attacks by armed groups operating in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea around Nigeria’s Niger Delta, including a seaborne raid on banks in Bata in December 2007, have triggered waves of harassment of foreigners in Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea, with a population of barely 600,000 people, has attracted large numbers of immigrants from nearby countries in the last decade as its oil industry has mushroomed



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