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Funeral for slain president underway

BISSAU, March 10 –  The funeral of slain Guinea-Bissau president Joao Bernardo Vieira was set to take place Tuesday, a week after he was gunned down by soldiers.

Hundreds of people gathered on Monday night in the National Assembly as Vieira’s coffin, draped in the national flag with an honour guard of four military police officers, lay in state.

Vieira’s wife Isabel, who had taken refuge in the Angolan embassy after her husband’s assassination, was in attendance to receive condolences from a number of ministers and ambassadors.

The state funeral for Vieira, who served as president for 23 years (1980-1999, 2005-2009), was set to begin at 0900 GMT.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade was expected to attend as well as junior foreign minister Joao Gomes Cravinho of Portugal — the former colonial ruler of the west African country.

Interim President Raimundo Pereira was expected to make an address, with the burial ceremony to be held later at the municipal cemetery.

The attack last Monday which killed the president was in apparent reprisal for the killing hours earlier of the country’s army chief, General Batista Tagme Na Waie.

The general was buried in a state funeral on Sunday.

Guinea-Bissau, which won independence in 1974, is among the world’s poorest nations and has become a major hub for traffickers smuggling cocaine between South America and Europe.

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