September 15, 2014 / 11:30 PM / in 3 years

UPDATE 1-Guinea-Bissau president dismisses head of armed forces -state radio

(Adds details, background)

BISSAU, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Guinea-Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz has dismissed the head of the country’s armed forces, according to a decree read on state radio on Monday.

General Antonio Indjai, who has led the armed forces since 2009 and led a 2012 coup, is powerful in the tiny West African nation. But he has also been targeted by U.S. authorities who have charged him with involvement in drug trafficking.

The statement did not give any reason for Indjai’s sacking or name a replacement. Bissau, the run-down seaside capital, was quiet immediately after the announcement.

Vaz took office in June after winning elections that marked the return to civilian rule after Indjai’s coup. He is under pressure to reform the armed forces, partly by retiring senior military officials, many of whom are accused of involvement in smuggling cocaine through Guinea-Bissau.

But underscoring the delicate balance of power between the army and politicians, one diplomat said Vaz would be expected to replace Indjai with another member of Indjai’s Balanta ethnic group, which holds sway amongst rank and file in the military. (Reporting by Alberto Dabo; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Ken Wills)

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