June 5, 2009 / 7:37 AM / 10 years ago

Gunmen kill Guinea-Bissau presidential candidate

BISSAU (Reuters) - Gunmen on Friday killed a government minister who was to be a candidate in Guinea-Bissau’s presidential election, state radio said.

“Baciro Dabo was killed at 4 o’clock this morning by a group of unidentified gunmen,” the report said.

In March, soldiers killed President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira in an apparent revenge attack for the slaying of the army chief of the unstable West African country, a transit point for drug smuggling, where coups and political violence have been commonplace since independence.

Campaigning for elections, which are scheduled for June 28, is due to begin on Saturday.

Dabo, a close ally of Vieira, was seen as a serious candidate with a strong chance of winning the poll.

“Men in uniform came in a four-wheel-drive vehicle and entered his house,” a witness said.

Also killed in the same attack was Helder Proenca, a former defence minister in Vieira’s administration, state radio said.

The deaths of Vieira and army chief General Batista Tagme Na Wai ended a long, violent feud between the two, but analysts say a power vacuum in the deeply impoverished country could allow Latin American cocaine cartels, already active in Bissau, to extend their influence.

Drug smugglers are increasingly using poorly policed West African states as staging posts for shipments from Latin America to lucrative markets in Europe.

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