Guinea military kills 157 in protest crackdown: rights group

A human rights group in Guinea said 157 people died and more than 1,200 people were injured in a military crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in the West African country's capital Monday.
Civilians run from security forces in Conakry, Guinea, in this frame grab taken from footage Monday. ((Reuters TV))
Doctors treated hundreds of injured civilians in Guinea on Tuesday, a day after the army's crackdown on a pro-democracy rally that a local human rights group says left more than 150 people dead.

Dr. Chierno Maadjou of the Guinean Organization for Defence of Human Rights said Tuesday that 157 people died and more than 1,200 people were wounded at Monday's protest at a stadium in the capital, Conakry.

The government of the West African country maintained that 57 people died and said an investigation is being launched into who ordered soldiers to open fire on the demonstrators with live ammunition.

Also Tuesday, media reports said soldiers smelling of alcohol fired their weapons into the air, frightening residents of the capital city

The African Union condemned the West African nation's military for "the indiscriminate firing on unarmed civilians" during the demonstration.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said eyewitnesses reported that security forces had raped female protesters in the streets, and stabbed protesters with knives and bayonets.

Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the killing of dozens of unarmed protesters is "shocking even by the abusive standards of Guinea's coup government."

The African Union had suspended Guinea's membership after military leader Capt. Moussa (Dadis) Camara seized power in Guinea last December in a bloodless coup following the death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte.

Camara told Radio France International on Monday night the shooting by members of his presidential guard were beyond his control.

Election plans spark protest

"Those people who committed those atrocities were uncontrollable elements in the military," he said. "Even I, as head of state in this very tense situation, cannot claim to be able to control those elements in the military."

Guinea's military junta leader, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, left, blames the violence that killed more than 150 at a pro-democracy protest in the capital on Monday on 'uncontrollable elements' in the military. ((Jerome Delay/Associated Press))
The opposition protest came after Camara suggested he could run in presidential elections Jan. 31 after initially pledging that he would not run.

The AU has threatened sanctions against Guinea over Camara's plans to run for the presidency, and called on the leader to allow for a return to civilian rule.

The European Union and neighbouring Senegal also denounced the violence, with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana calling for the immediate release of arrested political leaders who remain in custody.

The opposition protest drew some 50,000 people to the soccer stadium, with demonstrators chanting "We want true democracy."

With files from The Associated Press