Guinea Govt Buries 57 People Killed in Protest

Published October 2, 2009

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) -- Guinea's independence celebrations were somber Friday as the government prepared to bury 57 people killed when troops fired live ammunition at a pro-democracy rally.

Before the burials, religious leaders will pray over the bodies at the capital's main mosque in this predominantly Muslim West African nation. Tensions remained high as opposition leaders snubbed the military junta leader's offer to form a national unity government, saying the massacre must be investigated and those responsible held accountable.

A human rights group says 157 people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded in the massacre on Monday. The government put the death toll at 57.

The victims were participating in a protest in the capital's main soccer stadium against military leader Capt. Moussa "Dadis" Camara, who seized power in a coup last December. Some 50,000 people had thronged the stadium. Witnesses say rampaging soldiers also raped women in the streets.

The injured included several top opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Cellou Diallo, who flew to France late Thursday for treatment for his multiple injuries.

Mamadou Ba Badiko, head of an opposition party, said he is not interested in Camara's offer - made after the massacre - to form a national unity government.

"How can you talk about a national union government when in the first place you have not made clear who gave orders to ... shoot our people?" he said. "In any case, a national union government is not on the agenda right now."

Monday's bloody protest raised concerns that Camara's grip on the country may be slipping. Camara, a previously unknown army captain in his 40s, was welcomed when he seized power just hours after the death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte.

Camara initially said he would not run in elections scheduled for January, but recently indicated that he may have changed his mind.

After Monday's protest, he banned all gatherings and demonstrations and declared two days of mourning starting Wednesday.

The protest and his ensuing actions prompted one of the country's top opposition leaders to appeal for outside help to hold elections and prompted condemnations from international authorities including several human rights groups, the U.N., the European Union, the African Union and the government of neighboring Senegal.

Since winning independence 51 years ago from France, Guinea has been pillaged by its ruling elite. Its 10 million people are among the world's poorest, even though its soil has diamonds, gold, iron and half the world's reserves of the raw material used to make aluminum.

Written by Associated Press

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