Moslem militants said they seized the Parliament building in this Caribbean capital on Friday and were holding the prime minister and his Cabinet hostage.
Abu Bakr, head of the black rebel group Muslim Meen, said in a nationwide radio and TV broadcast late Friday that the government had been overthrown, but the claim could not be independently confirmed.Earlier, Bakr had a station newscaster read a statement on national television about 6 p.m. EDT in which Bakr announced the uprising and claimed to be holding captive in Parliament the prime minister, Arthur Robinson.
An announcer on Radio 610, Dennis McComie, quoted Bakr as having said on TV his motive for moving against the government was "poverty and the destruction of Trinidad" - without elaborating on what that meant.
There has been no official reaction from the government, but late Friday in Washington, State Department spokesman Dave Denny said, "We would deplore any attempt to overthrow the democratic government of Trinidad."
He also said, "Our embassy reports gunfire in the vicinity of the TV station. Explosions and gunfire have been heard downtown."
There were unconfirmed reports of casulaties in this city of 300,000 residents, although Denny said he had no word about the situation of Americans in Trinidad. Trinidad's smaller island of Tobago is a popular vacation site.
Bakr said there was no plan for violence, looting or retribution against civilians, McComie told The Associated Press.
The Moslem group claims to have 200 to 250 members. They are known as a small militant group with connections to Libya that are said to include some funding.
The rebel statement said the Cabinet also was being held hostage with Robinson, 63, a veteran political leader, lawyer and economist, but it could not be ascertained how many were inside the Parliament building.