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Guinea under fire

CONAKRY, Sept 29 – International condemnation mounted Tuesday after security forces in the world’s top bauxite producer Guinea shot dead least 87 people protesting against a junta leader who seized power in December.

The outcry boiled over amid reports that troops were reportedly removing bodies in the seaside capital Conakry to hide the scale of the bloodshed.

"There are 87 bodies that were collected in and around the stadium after the military came through," a police source said, referring to the venue of Monday’s rally and speaking on condition of anonymity.

There are currently 47 bodies at the Samory Toure military camp in Conakry, four of them women, the source said.

After crushing the protest against junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, military commanders issued instructions for all bodies from the demonstration at a city stadium to be taken to the Alpha Yaya Diallo military camp, rather than to morgues, a Red Cross source told AFP.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon slammed the "excessive use of force" and said he was "shocked by the loss of life, the high number of people injured and the destruction of property."

Former colonial ruler France condemned "the violent repression exercised by the army against the opposition and civil society during a peaceful demonstration held in Conakry."

The African Union on Tuesday condemned the Guinea army’s violent suppression of an opposition demonstration that left at least 87 people dead.

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The AU commission "strongly condemns the indiscriminate firing on unarmed civilians, which left dozens dead and many others injured, while serious other violations of human rights were committed," a statement said.

Guinea’s security forces opened fire Monday on opposition supporters protesting against the junta that seized power in a bloodless coup in the west African country last December.

The bloc also called for the "unconditional and immediate" release of those detained by the forces.

Paris called on the junta to "show responsibility and to listen to the Guinean people’s legitimate aspiration to democratically choose their leaders," and said Camara not standing for re-election "would allow for calm to return."

A senior US official in Washington said: "We’re deeply concerned about the general breakdown in security in Conakry. We urge the Guinean government to exercise restraint and ensure the safety and security of Guinean and foreign nationals in accordance with universally accepted standards of human rights."

The International Federation of Human Rights cited reports of several bodies with bullet marks arriving in Conakry hospitals and urged world bodies, including the United Nations and the African Union, to help stop the executions by what it said was an "illegitimate regime."

A source at Conakry’s Ignace Deen hospital told AFP that an army truck had come by to pick up "dozens of bodies" to be taken to "an unknown destination" after presidential guards violently evacuated several thousand people out to demonstrate in defiance of a ban.

"It’s butchery! There are dozens of dead," said another doctor who asked not to be named.

The protesters had gathered to oppose any bid by the junta leader, who took power in December 2008, to run for president in elections due next January. Camara is also under strong international pressure to step down.

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In his first public comment on the violence, Camara told Senegal’s RFM radio station that "I wanted to go (and see what was happening), I was so really disgusted when I was told" about the violence.

"I’d rather die (than see people killed) because I didn’t take control of this country to have a confrontation," Camara said, speaking in disjointed sentences.

Two former prime ministers now in the opposition, Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Toure, were injured in the violence and then taken to a military camp which serves as the junta’s headquarters, according to Diallo’s wife.

The houses of the two men were pillaged by soldiers, their neighbours said.

"There was a deliberate attempt today to eliminate all the opponents," Toure, who had suffered head injuries in the crackdown, told AFP.

Demonstrators had begun to gather outside Conakry’s largest stadium, which was guarded by large numbers of police. Protesters carried placards reading "No to Dadis" and "Down with the army in power."

The junta banned the demonstration, but several political parties, trade unions and civic organisations vowed that the event would go ahead.

In the middle of the morning, riot police charged the protesters.

News of the ban came a day after Camara made his first visit outside the capital since he took power in a coup last December, travelling to Guinea’s second city and opposition stronghold of Labe.

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Camara installed himself at the helm of the francophone West African nation after leading a bloodless coup within hours of the death of Guinea’s strongman leader Lansana Conte, who had been in power since 1984.

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