BISSAU (AFP) - Soldiers demanding better pay attacked the headquarters of the armed forces Monday in the capital of the west African state of Guinea-Bissau, the army chief said.

Armed men deployed on the streets of Bissau but sources among the mutinous soldiers were quick to dismiss any suggestion that a coup was being staged in the absence of the country's president, who is undergoing treatment in France.

"We were caught off guard this morning by armed men who attacked the joint command as well as two other military units inside the headquarters," General Antonio Indjai told reporters.

"These men were attempting to get hold of weapons we had stored in the gun shop," he said without elaborating further.

It was not immediately clear whether the attack left any dead.

Two military officials speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said a number of navy officers were involved in the incident.

General Indjai was inside the headquarters compound in the central district of Bissau Velho when the renegade soldiers attacked but spoke to journalists from a military base in Bissalanca near the airport.

A soldier presenting himself as one of the leaders of the deployed forces told AFP on condition of anonymity that the troops were out to demand a pay rise. "This is a purely military problem. We have no intention of attacking the state," the soldier said. According to him, the government in November granted a pay increase to the army "to enable us to have a good Christmas," but this money went only to a handful of soldiers.