At least five shot during Guinea opposition protests

By Saliou Samb
Police officers hold tear gas canisters during an opposition rally in Conakry April 20, 2015. REUTERS/Saliou Samb

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) - At least five people were wounded by gunfire in Guinea's capital Conakry on Monday during violent opposition protests against the timing of elections, an opposition leader and a witness said.

As early as 10.00 p.m. ET on Monday, some opposition supporters erected barricades and burned tyres on the streets of the seaside capital while youths fought street battles with the police and gendarmes.

According to the opposition, at least three people have been killed and 50 injured in the protests which began last week.

Guinea's electoral commission announced last month that a presidential election would be held on Oct. 11, a decision the opposition said broke a 2013 agreement to stage long-delayed local elections first.

Analysts say that holding local polls first would give President Alpha Conde's rivals more influence in organizing the presidential election.

Monday's clashes intensified in the evening, and regular gunshots were heard in several neighborhoods.

A Reuters witness met a young opposition supporter named Oumar Bah, who was being carried to hospital by friends after being struck in the buttock by a bullet.

"It was the police who did this to me," he said.

The government said in a statement earlier in the day that several people had been arrested but denied it fired shots at protesters.

However, Mouctar Diallo, among the leaders of the opposition, told Reuters that his bodyguard had been struck in the calf by a bullet.

"I'm at the hospital right now. I've counted at least four others with bullet wounds in addition to him," Diallo said.

It was not known if Bah, the man seen by the Reuters witness, was among those counted by Diallo.

Two other people were injured in clashes earlier in the day though they were not gunshot victims.

A senior police official told Reuters that a police vehicle had come under fire during the day with one bullet passing through a window.

Guinea government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said the protests were unlawful and could jeopardize efforts to curb the Ebola outbreak that began in the country last year and has killed over 10,000 people in the region.

Camara said the government was open to negotiating with the opposition. A government delegation comprising several ministers met the leader of the opposition Cellou Dalein Diallo on Sunday.

However, Diallo later claimed the government did not seem ready for a sincere dialogue.

Guinea is rich in mineral deposits including gold, diamond, bauxite and iron ore but long-running political turmoil has hampered its ability to develop them.

(Writing by Bate Felix and Joe Bavier; Editing by Dominic Evans, Bernard Orr)