Gabon President Ali Bongo Overthrown, US Military Deployed

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Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the commission, said in a tweet: "The African Union strongly condemns the coup attempt this morning in Gabon".

Through Radio Libreville, they asked the people of Gabon to remain calm and assured them that the country's pro-France foreign policy would remain unchanged. "I reaffirm the AU's rejection of all anti-constitutional change".

The message, read by a man who called himself Lieutenant Ondo Obiang Kelly, said that a "national restoration council" would be created to guarantee a transition to democracy for the Gabonese people.

In his first public statement since falling ill, he issued a New Year's address from the Moroccan capital Rabat acknowledging he had been "through a hard period" and promised to return soon.

Authorities had earlier said five rebels had entered the building and four had been arrested. A spokesman for the presidency said he would make a statement shortly.

Early on Monday morning, a uniformed officer took to the airwaves of the state broadcaster.

The incumbent president's father Omar Bongo Ondimba was the dictatorial president of Gabon for 42 years from 1967 until his death in 2009.

The ministry also advised French nationals in the capital Libreville - 8 900 of whom have registered with the French consulate - to "avoid moving around" in the capital for time being.

The Military Tanks and officers were deployed in the capital city of Libreville.

A crowd of about 300 people gathered at the station in support of the attempted coup, but soldiers fired tear gas to disperse them.

Violent clashes in December 2014 pit opposition supporters against security forces during a banned demonstration to demand Ali Bongo's departure.

Since 2009, President Ali Bongo has been in power but has been out of the country since October following reports he had a stroke. But Bongo appeared to be slurring his words and unable to lift his right arm, signs that he may indeed have suffered a serious stroke.

Bongo was narrowly re-elected in 2016 following a presidential poll marred by deadly violence and allegations of fraud. Their wealth comes from oil, but aside from Bongo's family and their associates in the capital, few citizens have seen any benefit from all that money and much of the nation is steeped in poverty.

Gabon is one of Africa's top oil producers, France's closest ally in the region and has been ruled for more than 50 years by the Bongo family.