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Guinea Strike Turns Violent


A general strike in Guinea has turned violent as it enters a second week. Students are starting their own protests as they have been unable to begin their exams.

Security forces fired tear gas and wielded batons to disperse students who were marching toward Conakry's city center.

Witnesses said at least three students were injured.

Earlier, the students sang and waved placards reading "Change, Now or Never."

In the Kipe suburb, police also fired tear gas to disperse students who had set up barricades with school desks, chairs, and tires.

The government had promised year-end exams would begin as scheduled Monday, but volunteers were unable to travel to exam sites because there was no public transportation.

In several more remote parts of Guinea, students smashed government buildings.

Guinea's protest action took a turn toward violence Saturday after students accused army soldiers of looting empty campuses. During the unrest, a student was killed when a truck overturned.

The nationwide protest began Thursday with unions demanding higher salaries for government workers and lower gasoline prices. Union activists say so far the government has made proposals that favor teachers but not other workers.

Shops and government buildings remain empty, even though the government said Sunday it had fulfilled the demands of protesters. But the government said it would be "merciless" in dealing with troublemakers.

Another five-day strike took place earlier this year amid soaring prices and crumbling infrastructure.

President Lansana Conte, a diabetic chain smoker who can barely walk, has been in power since a coup in 1984. The past few years have been marked by a crackdown against dissenters in the army, and his failing health.

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