US Army Special Forces troops were training special operations troops in the West African nation of Guinea when the Guineans left the training to take part in a coup organized by their commander.

The Guinean special operations troops stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, placing the country’s president, 83-year-old Alpha Condé, under house arrest at an undetermined location. A few hours later, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the commander of the Guinean special operations forces, announced the coup and the suspension of the country’s constitution.

Doumbouya was well-known to the Americans as he had participated in several joint American/Guinean exercises. He was a former officer in the French Foreign Legion and, at one time, a close ally of the deposed president.

Once the coup took place, the American Green Berets from the 3rd Special Forces Group, quickly suspended their activity and moved, with Guinea security personnel support, to the U.S. Embassy in Conakry. 

The Green Berets have been in the country since mid-July training Doumbouya’s special forces troops on a regularly scheduled Joint Combined Exchange Training event (JCET). The base where the training took place was in Forécariah, close to Guinea’s border with Sierra Leone, and about a four-hour drive from the presidential palace.

Screenshot of American SF troops driving through the crowds of Conakry, Guinea en route to the U.S. Embassy. (Twitter)

Apparently, the Guinean troops waited until early Sunday morning, while the Americans were sleeping, before slipping away and driving to the capital to conduct the coup.

Kelly Callahan, a spokesperson for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), said the SF troops suspended the training as soon as they realized that a coup was unfolding. The coup, she said, is “incompatible with U.S. military training and education.”

The United States, the United Nations, as well as the African Union have condemned the coup. 

In a video posted on Twitter, a vehicle with American Green Berets is seen trying to navigate the throngs of people flooding the streets of Conakry and blocking traffic. Guinean troops are seen attempting to wave the people away. 

However, the mood of the crowd was more celebratory than hostile. They are dancing and shouting “Freedom” as they move through the traffic. The Americans appear relaxed, with the windows down waving to the crowds. One SF soldier in the front passenger seat is filmed smiling and high-fiving passersby, while appearing to be capturing footage with a cell phone.

 

President Conde’s Suspect Political Record

Critics of the U.S. say that the behavior of the troops represents a tacit American approval of the coup. Nevertheless, the behavior of the SF troops was correct. Moving through throngs of people is a potentially volatile situation. The Green Berets, by their amicable comportment, prevented any potential violence that could have easily erupted had the crowd sensed that the Green Berets were hostile or unfriendly. 

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Still, the U.S. had to deny any involvement. “The U.S. government and military are not involved in this apparent military seizure of power in any way,” AFRICOM said. “The United States strongly condemns these actions in Guinea and any attempts at forceful seizures of power or unconstitutional actions.”

Deposed President Conde of Guinea appears disheveled and in an unknown location following the coup that removed him from power. (Video screenshot from Guinean television)

According to Doumbouya, President Conde was removed after he, the president, illegally amended the constitution thereby allowing him to run for an unprecedented third term.

The last presidential elections were disputed because of alleged irregularities. Following the elections, Conde arrested and imprisoned more than 400 political opponents. According to Amnesty International, several of them have since died. 

Doumbouya and the Defense Minister Mohamed Diané developed an adversarial relationship over the events. Fearing a coup several months ago, the defense minister moved the special operations unit to the Forécariah base.

After the coup, the Guinean troops filmed a disheveled Conde sitting on a sofa at an undisclosed location. Conde declined to answer questions as to whether he was being mistreated. 

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