Four soldiers who attempted a coup in Gabon overnight have been arrested, the government says, while a fifth is on the run.

The group of young soldiers took to state radio this morning to announce the takeover, calling President Ali Bongo's recent New Year message "a pitiful sight".

They branded his televised speech, in which he sought to put an end to the rumours about his health, a "relentless attempt to cling onto power".

"It reinforced doubts about his ability to assume the responsibilities of his role as President of the Republic", said Lt Kelly Ondo Obiang, the leader of the so-called Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon.

The president is recovering from an undisclosed illness in Morocco. Some reports say he had suffered a stroke, but that has not been confirmed.

A journalist based in neighbouring Cameroon is among those who shared the new year video message to social media:

In it, President Bongo does not specify the nature of his illness, but refers to it as "a test" and adds he is "feeling better".

It's true I've been through a difficult period, as happens in life. I made it through this test thanks to God, the people around me, my family in particular and your support... Today, as you can see, I'm feeling better.

He goes on to say he will return to the country and pledges to "devote all my energy and strength to serving our country and improving everyday life".