Scuffles break out near Conakry mosque

In a show of anger following proposed talks with the opposition by Guinea’s military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, demonstrators clashed with police officers outside a mosque in the capital of Conakry on Friday .


AFP - Brief scuffles broke out Friday near Conakry's main mosque where several dozen bodies of victims shot dead by Guinea's junta forces at a demonstration were put on display.

In a show of public anger after military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara proposed talks with the opposition, youths threw stones at gendarmerie police posted round the mosque. Police riposted by firing tear gas, witnesses said.

Several thousand people had gathered after a religious official made an appeal for families to come and identify the dead from Monday's shootings in a stadium where tens of thousands of opposition supporters were packed.

"We were there looking at the dead, those who were assassinated by the soldiers," a youth in his 20s told AFP. "We saw the security forces and we rebelled. They fired tear gas at us and everyone left the mosque."

Rights groups and the United Nations say more than 150 people were killed and women were raped by soldiers in Monday's repression. The authorities have given a death toll of 56.

Anti-riot police struggled Friday to control a crowd of about 1,000 who had come to the mosque, dominated by youths who raised their fists in the air in a sign of defiance.

The bodies in white shrouds lay in tents and families came with photographs, but many said their loved ones were not among the dead. They disputed, in tears or with anger, the official toll of 56 dead.

Camara used a televised speech for the country's 51st anniversary of independence to call for talks "so all may make their contribution to the transition process."

On Friday, Camara went to the Martyrs' Monument in Conakry for a ceremony attended by troops and religious and civilian dignitaries. Only a few hundred people turned up.

"September 28, 2009 is from now on a symbol of violence," said Camara, who seized power in December 2008 hours after the death of long-serving dictator Lansana Conte.

Camara did not acknowledge the role of the security forces in the repression of the demonstration, but reiterated a call for a government of national unity to lead the country into elections next year.

He expressed what he called "very profound sympathy" for the families of the dead, and said a peaceful political transition was possible.

But a joint statement by opposition political parties, trade unions and civil associations said that "internal dialogue has become impossible."

Demonstrators were "trapped, brutalised, humiliated, beaten up, raped, stabbed and killed by drugged squads of the army," said the statement which blamed Camara and Defence Minister General Sekouba Konate.

Camara has blamed the violence on "uncontrolled elements" of the army.

Rumours that Camara plans to go back on a pledge not to stand in a January 31 presidential election have caused the new demonstrations in Guinea, including the rally on Monday where soldiers opened fire.

Regional bloc the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) meanwhile said it had named Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore as "facilitator" to ease tensions in Guinea.

ECOWAS president Mohamed Ibn Chambas said that Compaore, who has previously mediated crises in Ivory Coast and Togo, would seek to lower tensions, resume dialogue and "see how we can move towards credible and transparent elections".

Camara's arrival in power on December 23 was initially welcomed by Guineans who believed his vows to fight poverty, corruption and drug trafficking, along with his pledge to hand over power to a civilian president.

But there are new international concerns over the country. The violence has been condemned by the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and individual countries like France, which are reconsidering their aid to Guinea.


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