CONAKRY (Reuters) - At least six people were shot and wounded in Guinea’s capital on Monday, the government said, during protests against the timing of elections and what opposition figures say is targeted violence against them.
Protesters barricaded streets and burned tyres overnight in neighborhoods of the capital, Conakry, that are considered opposition strongholds. Security forces wearing shields and helmets moved in to clear the streets, firing teargas as protesters threw stones.
“We want (President) Alpha Conde to go,” shouted one of the protesters above the din of an angry crowd.
Several witnesses reported hearing gunfire. A government statement said that 10 injured people had been admitted to two Conakry hospitals, including six people with bullet wounds. Eight people were arrested during the protests, the statement said, and relative calm had returned by dusk.
“For the moment, we don’t know where the shots came from,” said government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara. Gendarmes had come under fire in the city’s Hamdallaye neighborhood, he said, although none had been hit.
A police vehicle was damaged and one member of the security forces injured by stone-throwing demonstrators, he said.
Guinea’s electoral commission announced last month that a presidential election would be held on Oct. 11, a decision the opposition said broke a July 2013 agreement to hold long-delayed local elections first.
“We won’t stop. We are calling for the demonstrations to continue tomorrow until our demands are totally satisfied,” opposition figure Cellou Dalein Diallo told journalists.
The opposition called Monday’s protests last week after unidentified gunmen attacked the vehicle of Aboubacar Sylla, an opposition spokesman, in what they said was an assassination attempt.
President Alpha Conde’s call for a return to dialogue was rebuffed by the opposition.
“Dialogue ended ... with the signing of the agreements. Alpha Conde just has to implement them,” said Sidya Toure, a former prime minister and now a member of the opposition. He said that security forces had clubbed his supporters on Monday and that 17 of them had suffered injuries.
Presidential and legislative elections since 2010, when Guinea emerged from decades of military rule, have been marred by violent protests, with parties divided along ethnic lines.
The United Nations’ top regional official, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, expressed concern about the vote, describing a “dangerous cleavage” in Guinea. He urged politicians to “find ways to build coalitions across the ethnic divide”.
Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Robin Pomeroy, Larry King