E.Guinea coup bid had Western support: British ex-mercenary

1st November 2011, Comments 0 comments

A British former mercenary revealed Tuesday that a failed 2004 coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea had the support of the Spanish government and the "approval" of both British and US authorities.

Speaking at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London, Simon Mann, an Eton-educated former SAS officer, said that "the Spanish government were part of the coup plot" to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Mann's latest revelations are detailed in his new book "Cry Havoc", in which he gives a personal account of the abortive operation that was partly funded by Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Mann led the coup plot, which aimed to replace Obiang's dictatorship with an interim government run by an exiled political opponent.

According to Mann, the CIA initially approved of the plan, which was backed by Executive Outcomes, a private military company run by a man he referred to as "The Boss".

"Someone from Langley said to 'The Boss' that if it could be done well, without damage to US assets and without endangering US citizens then an assisted regime change would be a good idea," Mann said.

As well as the Spanish government, Mann said he was assured that the operation had support from the South African authorities as well as the approval of the British, Chinese and US intelligence.

"China, the US and the UK, seemed to be approving, I say seemed by their allowing me to carry on -- it wasn't as if I was walking around in a false beard after all," he said.

Mann said his sources claim the British and US authorities became aware of the coup attempt after seeing reports from a private South African security agent sent to oil companies in each country.

Before he was arrested in Zimbabwe while loading airplanes with weapons, Mann said the mission had gone desperately awry, with the operation running low on time and money.

However, Mann said ultimately the CIA "torpedoed" the plot.

"They saw that they could achieve their original objective by which I mean the better governance of Equatorial Guinea with no risk from the loose cannon that I had become," he said.

Mann was extradited from Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea in 2008 and sentenced to 34 years in prison for his part in the plot.

He was released and returned to Britain in November 2009 after Obiang pardoned him.

Mann said he has been back to Equatorial Guinea since his release and has been helping the authorities there with their enquiries into Britain-based Lebanese millionaire Ely Calil, who was also implicated in the coup plot.

"I've been helping them with their enquiries in Beirut and in exactly the same way as I have also been helping Scotland Yard, who have also been carrying out enquiries here."

© 2011 AFP

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