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Guinea denounced as raids follows deadly clashes

(Audio available further in this article)
CONAKRY — Rights groups denounced Guinea's government as police fanned out across the capital following deadly clashes that overshadowed what had been intended as a day of national reconciliation.

Police raided opposition strongholds in the capital Conakry on Wednesday, arresting dozens, witnesses said.

The crackdown came a day after clashes between protesters and security forces left two dead and about 40 injured.

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"Since this morning we have been terrorized here by dozens of policemen who have come into neighbourhoods attacking everyone, hitting the women and the old, and chasing and stopping the youth," one witness told AFP on condition of anonymity.

On Tuesday two men were killed and more than three dozen wounded when opposition supporters, calling for electoral reform and defying a government ban on rallies, confronted large numbers of police throughout the capital.

Police shot one man dead, his family said, and medical officials said another man was stabbed to death.

Prosecutor Mohamed Said Haidara said police and paramilitary forces had arrested 322 people during Tuesday's unrest including some homicide suspects.

He said 23 paramilitary and two police officers had been injured during the unrest, in what Prime Minister Mohamed Said Fofana called a "day of sorrow".

Amnesty International, which said three protesters had died, called on Guinea to carry out an immediate investigation.

"It's deeply alarming that President Alpha Conde is resorting to exactly the same brutal methods as his predecessors," the rights group said in a statement.

The United States called for peaceful demonstrations and urged security forces to refrain from excessive force.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland warned that "violence undermines rule of law and threatens Guinea's nascent democracy."

With legislative elections set for December "now is not the time to lose democratic progress that took 50 years to achieve," she added.

Tuesday's violence erupted on the eve of the second anniversary of a notorious massacre in Guinea that preceded the fall of its military regime and a transition toward democracy.

Conde had declared Wednesday a national "day of national reconciliation" in a bid to underline the country's progress since the fall of the junta.

But critics accuse him of having mishandled preparations for legislative elections due on December 29.

They warn that this risks unravelling the gains in a nation that for decades was crippled by coups and authoritarian regimes.

Conde, who before winning power was a veteran opposition leader during years of despotic rule, was elected in November 2010 in the first free polls in the history of the country since independence in 1958.

Two years ago Wednesday, on September 28, 2009, thousands gathered at a stadium in the capital to voice opposition against Moussa Dadis Camara's military junta.

Troops moved in, killing at least 157 and injuring hundreds more, with reports indicating that that soldiers raped 131 women in the ensuring mayhem.

An official commemoration ceremony was held at the national parliament Tuesday with members of the government and religious leaders attending.

But the Guinean Organisation for the Defence of Human Rights has protested that far from anyone being arrested for the massacre, some suspects had even been promoted to top civilian and military positions.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) singled out Lieutenant Colonel Claude Pivi, named presidential security minister; and Lieutenant Colonel Moussa Tiegboro Camara, appointed director of the National Agency against Drugs, Organised Crime and Terrorism.

A Guinean court on Wednesday sentenced 16 people to death for committing "pre-meditated murder" during inter-ethnic clashes in May, Justice Minister Christian Snow said.

A court in the eastern city of Kankan also sentenced 20 others to between five and 20 years for involvement in violence between indigenous Kpeles and ethnic Malinkes.

At least 25 people were killed there, including 10 reported to have been burnt alive.

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