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AU condemns Guinea Bissau president s assassination

ADDIS ABABA, March 2 – The African Union’s top executive, Jean Ping, on Monday condemned the assassination of Guinea-Bissau’s president Joao Bernardo Vieira by soldiers as a "criminal act".

"I was deeply shocked this morning to hear of the assassination of the president of the republic of Guinea-Bissau, Nino Vieira. The AU and myself firmly condemn this criminal act," Ping told AFP, using Vieira’s nickname.

This assassination "is serious notably because it comes at a time when efforts were under way to bolster peace following the November election," said the AU commission chairman.

Guinea-Bissau soldiers gunned down the veteran president as he fled his home Monday, a military spokesman said.

The West African nation’s army blamed Vieira, 69, for the death of their leader, General Tagme Na Waie, in a bomb attack on Sunday, he said.

Ping deplored the latest in a string of recent coups on the continent.

"It’s sad to observe that in such a short time, we have recorded three coups in West Africa. It’s very alarming," he said.

Coups also took place in Guinea and Mauritania in 2008.

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"I am holding consultations with regional leaders to find a way out of the crisis (in Guinea-Bissau)," Ping also said, reiterating the AU’s condemnation of any attempt to seize power through unconstitutional means.

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