CONAKRY (Reuters) - Security forces in Guinea fired tear gas on Thursday to disperse demonstrators protesting against a delay in holding local elections in the west African country, residents said.
In the suburbs of the capital Conakry, young people took up positions behind makeshift barricades made from tree trunks and other debris and threw rocks at police, who responded with tear gas. Witnesses said tear gas was also fired at protesters in the central city of Labe.
Two residents in Conakry's suburb of Bambeto said they heard a spurt of gunfire at noon, without specifying the origin.
"Since this morning, we are trying to stop protesters from gathering. Whenever we see a group we try to disperse them rapidly," said a police officer, requesting anonymity. He said he was not aware of reports of gunfire.
Protests earlier this month turned violent and the opposition accuses security forces of firing live rounds at protesters, wounding several people. The government denies this.
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 opposition accuses the government of breaking a promise it made in 2013 to hold long-delayed local elections before a presidential vote due in October this year.
President Alpha Conde told journalists during a visit to Paris on Wednesday that there were no plans to change the electoral calendar.
Members of the opposition said on Thursday that police forces were surrounding the houses of their leaders to prevent them from participating in the protest.
"They blocked the two exits with pick-up trucks and a van with water cannons. Clearly, they don't want leaders to get out and are trying to control the protest," said Souleymane Tianguel Bah, spokesman for the UFDG party.
Sidya Toure, former prime minister and now a member of the opposition, said security forces were also outside his home.