The assassinations of Guinea-Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira and the nation's military chief of staff threaten further instability in the troubled West African nation. The United States joins with Portugal, the African and European Unions in condemning the killings and calling for constitutional order to be respected.
President Vieira was killed early Monday, reportedly by mutinous soldiers loyal to General Batista Tagme Na Wai, who himself was killed in a bomb attack the previous day. The tit-for-tat murders culminated rising tensions between the late President and some factions of Guinea-Bissau's armed forces.
Thus it was encouraging to hear a senior military leader, Naval Commander Jose Zamora Induta, say the attack on the president was an isolated incident, it did not represent a coup d'etat, and the armed forces will respect democratic principles as the nation's leaders work through the crisis.
Identifying and bringing the perpetrators to justice could do much to assure the nation's citizens that the political situation won't degenerate into the violence seen in the 1990s. With this in mind authorities should act swiftly and decisively in the public interest.
Perhaps most important, though, is that the military and all political parties respect the constitution and follow the order of government succession that it lays out. The lawful and peaceful conduct of government in such trying times is the best answer for the anarchic forces behind the attacks.