Equatorial Guinea's tiny opposition forces have questioned whether the whole affair has been a fiction arranged by the Obiang regime to justify one of its periodic crackdowns on political foes.
Meanwhile, many questions remain. Analysts, for example, say the supposed coup leader, Du Toit, had a close relationship with the head of security in Equatorial Guinea, Armengol Ondo Nguema -- the president's brother.
"It's either a brilliant sting with international intelligence cooperation, a total [blunder] by the mercenaries or it was a total set-up," said Antony Goldman, Africa analyst for the London-based independent research organization Clearwater Research Services.
Robert Young Pelton, author of a book about Executive Outcomes and a friend of Du Toit, said the accused coup leader runs a company that sells security services and weapons. He said Du Toit had a close relationship with officials in Equatorial Guinea, including Ondo Nguema. "There's no way he was over there without the implicit blessing and protection of the powers that be," he said.
Peter Singer, national security fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, "The tea leaves are pointing to the coup attempt. You have just too much coming together and the background of these individuals." But he said some senior Zimbabwean officials might have planned to sell weapons to the mercenaries, only to have been thwarted by the plane's capture.
"You're seeing a lot of spinning going on now by all the players because pretty much all of the players are dirty-handed," he said. "This is an interesting story which really has no good guys in it."
Dixon reported from South Africa and Silverstein from Washington.