Relying on sweeping emergency powers, Zambian authorities have arrested a number of suspects in a failed coup against President Frederick Chiluba, the government said Saturday.
Police cars with sirens blaring raced through Lusaka’s streets Saturday. But the number of suspects arrested in the past two days and their identities were not released, according to a report on state radio.
Also Saturday, state television reported the nation’s top law officer, Attorney General George Chilupe, resigned. Chilupe was believed to have opposed draconian emergency measures that were imposed in the wake of Tuesday’s coup attempt.
The wife of a man identified only as Maj. Mutale of the army’s engineering corps told reporters her husband was among those arrested.
An army lieutenant also was arrested for allegedly providing the coup leaders with plans of the broadcast center seized by mutineers, a military official said on condition of anonymity.
Mutale is the most senior officer to be detained so far in a crackdown that followed the coup attempt, led by disgruntled military officers. The government responded by declaring a state of emergency, giving authorities widespread powers to search homes and buildings and to detain suspects without filing charges.
Opposition groups have warned that Chiluba’s government would use the failed coup as an excuse to quash government opponents.
The only known political leader detained so far is Zambia Democratic Congress party head Dean Mung’omba, who was arrested Friday.
Lawyers acting for former President Kenneth Kaunda’s main opposition group said none of its leaders was in police custody Saturday. Kaunda was in South Africa.
On Tuesday, mutinous soldiers took over the state radio station and claimed in broadcasts to have toppled Chiluba. Loyal soldiers shot their way into the station a few hours later and arrested most of the mutineers. One rebel was killed.
Two junior officers among 17 captured rebels were identified as the leaders of the failed revolt and police said at least four more mutineers had evaded capture.
Though the government has not officially implicated opposition leaders in the coup attempt, it said Thursday that some prominent civilians may have backed it.