UPDATE 2-Bissau president and ex-premier freed by soldiers

Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:59pm GMT

* Politicians freed, headed to Ivory Coast

* Soldiers will accept ECOWAS force -spokesman (Adds pair arriving in Abidjan, comment from minister)

By Alberto Dabo

BISSAU, April 27 (Reuters) - Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau released two leading politicians they had arrested in an April 12 coup and said on Friday they would accept the planned deployment to the country of over 600 soldiers from West African regional bloc ECOWAS.

Carlos Gomes Junior, the ex-premier and presidential election front-runner, and interim President Raimundo Pereira were freed on Friday afternoon after a visit by ECOWAS military chiefs and later flew to Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

The pair were released a day after ECOWAS announced the deployment of a force in Guinea-Bissau to secure the return to civilian rule, and threatened targeted sanctions against soldiers who blocked the process.

The coup took place halfway through elections in the former Portuguese colony, which has endured decades of instability since independence in 1974 and become a transit hub for Latin American cocaine mostly headed for Europe.

Lieutenant-Colonel Daha Bana na Walna, a spokesman for the Military Command that seized power in the coup, confirmed the release of Gomes Junior and Pereira.

"The Military Command accepts the deployment of the 600 men from ECOWAS," he added, saying they would replace a contingent of Angolan soldiers due to leave the country.   Continued...

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