June 12, 2006

Six killed in Guinea as soldiers shoot at protests

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) - At least six people were killed and
more than a dozen wounded when soldiers opened fire on student
protesters in Guinea on Monday during a general strike in the
West African state, police and witnesses said.

Three people were killed in the capital Conakry, including
a child hit by a stray bullet, when an isolated soldier opened
fire after being mobbed by angry students protesting at the
suspension of exams due for Monday, a police source said.

A further three died in the eastern town of Nzerekore, some
970 km (600 miles) southeast of Conakry, after troops shot at a

"Soldiers opened fire on a group of students who were
marching on the governor's residence. Two people died there and
a third student was killed at the Oumar Drame primary school,"
said a witnessed, who asked not to be identified.

A riot broke out in the town after students began to taunt
police when it became clear that adjudicators for Monday's
exams had not turned up, despite government reassurances the
nationwide tests would go ahead.

In another neighborhood of Conakry, students shouting "Down
with the government," ransacked local education offices and
rampaged through the streets, despite police efforts to contain
them, witnesses said.

The general strike, which began on Thursday, was the latest
action by unions leading opposition to President Lansana
Conte's disastrous economic management in mineral-rich Guinea.

Once a bulwark of stability in West Africa, Guinea is
struggling with rampant corruption, a collapsing economy and a
powerful but fractious military. Analysts fear a dangerous
power vacuum if Conte -- a diabetic in his 70s -- were to die.