Guinean forces kill 58 in crackdown -group

Source: Reuters

* At least 58 killed in Guinea, rights group says * Security forces use live rounds to disperse crowds * Violence marks escalation in political crisis * France condemns “violent repression” (Adds French reaction) By Saliou Samb CONAKRY, Sept 28 (Reuters) – Guinean security forces killed at least 58 people when they fired live rounds on Monday to disperse thousands of protesters who wanted to hold a rally in a sports stadium, a rights body said. Witnesses said several prominent opposition leaders were arrested and protesters were injured in violence that began when thousands of people took to the streets and met in the stadium despite a massive security operation by the authorities. The violence in the world’s top bauxite exporting country, the worst since military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in a 2008 coup, followed months of wrangling between Camara and his rivals, and drew harsh criticism from former colonial power France. Camara has not ruled out standing in elections, angering opponents and foreign donors alike. “At one hospital alone, we have counted 58 bodies,” Thierno Maadjou Sow, president of the Guinean Human Rights Organisation, told Reuters. “It seems there are many more corpses in (the other hospital).” A witness who went to the local Red Cross in Conakry said he had counted at least 20 people with bullet wounds. Other witnesses said a police station was set on fire and several police vehicles, equipment and at least one officer were seized. The junta, known as the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), said it would not negotiate with forces challenging it. “Those who want to defy the authority of the state, we will stop them,” Commandant Moussa Diegboro Camara said on the radio. He has yet to make a formal announcement, but Dadis Camara has told diplomats in private he will be a candidate. A loose coalition of opposition parties is leading the campaign against his candidacy and wanted to hold a meeting at the September 28 stadium. It was banned but thousands of people took to the streets and broke into the stadium anyway. Cellou Dalein Diallo, leader of major oppoosition group the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), and several other politicians were arrested by the security forces. “I asked … whether they were in good health, and I was told they are,” Dadis Camara told Senegalese radio station RFM. France condemned what it said was the Guinean army’s “violent represssion of a peaceful demonstration” and said it would work for the immediate release of all those detained. It also said it would consult with the European Union and the International Contact Group on Guinea on any further steps. “HEADING TO OPEN CONFLICT” Camara seized power after President Lansana Conte died in December 2008. He enjoyed initial support from a population hungry for change after decades of Conte’s rule left the mineral-rich nation in disarray. However, increasingly erratic behaviour, including crackdowns on former backers in the military, attacks on mining companies the country is so dependent on and the likelihood he will stand in a poll due in 2010, have fuelled instability. Mining firms such as UC RUSAL and Rio Tinto <RIO.L> have not indicated they are ready to leave the country despite a series of disputes, but officials say government revenues from mineral exports will fall dramatically next year, putting the budget under strain [ID:nLS236707]. Alioune Tine, president of pan-African rights group RADDHO, warned that the violence pointed to further trouble. “If Camara maintains his desire to be president, we are heading to an open conflict in this country. ECOWAS and the international community must intervene immediately,” he said. Other rights groups have warned that the CNDD is slipping into the methods of dictatorships. (Writing by David Lewis/Daniel Magnowski; additional reporting by Daniel Magnowski, Diadie Ba and David Lewis in Dakar and Sophie Taylor in Paris; Editing by Michael Roddy)
spotted by RS

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