Comoros protests against anti-government plot, mercenary involvement

MORONI Sat Apr 27, 2013 1:47pm EDT

Ikililou Dhoinine, President of the Union of the Comoros, addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Ikililou Dhoinine, President of the Union of the Comoros, addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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MORONI (Reuters) - Politicians and civil society groups on the coup-prone Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros on Saturday protested against an attempt to destabilize the government and warned that people linked to an infamous mercenary were at the heart of the plot.

Comoros authorities said there was a conspiracy to undermine the country's rulers and last week arrested around 10 people for alleged involvement in the attempt to destabilize the government.

Disquiet has simmered in recent months on the politically volatile archipelago, which has experienced around 20 coups or coup attempts since independence in 1975, after President Ikililou Dhoinine sacked people allied to his predecessor.

Although the opposition initially criticized the authorities for keeping details about the plot a secret, on Saturday opposition party leaders, the president's party and civil society groups marched around the capital city Moroni to protest against the attempt to destabilize the impoverished country.

Houmed Msaidie, head of the opposition, said a government briefing suggested Patrick Klein, who worked under the notorious French mercenary Bob Denard, was "one of the main authors of this destabilization attempt". Klein could not be contacted to answer the allegations.

Denard, who died in 2007, stalked Comoros for around 30 years and was involved in four coups on the islands. He also led ruthless, often ill-disciplined bands of European ex-soldiers, sometimes dubbed "Les affreux", or "the terrible ones", in wars in Yemen, Biafra and Congo.

Zahara Toyb, a Mouroi party activist, said the march was organized "to call a halt to mercenaries who aspire to stop stability and peace in my country." Around 1000 people attended.

Independent information can be hard to access in the tightly controlled country made up of three small volcanic islands and there is still little known about last week's plot.

Arrests of high-profile individuals, including the son of former President Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane, who was assassinated in 1989, as well as a former minister, Mahmoud Ahmed Abdallah, have left Comorans with more questions than answers.

(Reporting by Ahmed Ali Amir; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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