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Guinea's Security Forces Rein In Angry Youths During Ninth Day of Strike


Security forces in the suburbs of Guinea's capital Conakry struggled to contain angry youths setting tires on fire during the ninth day of a general strike. Meanwhile, union leaders say President Lansana Conte threatened to have them killed at a meeting Wednesday. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Dakar.

Union leaders say the meeting deteriorated into threats and ranting from the president after they called on Mr. Conte to resign.

They say the chain-smoking, diabetic, chronically ill president is unfit to remain in office. He has been at the reins of the mineral-rich, but increasingly impoverished, West African nation since a coup in 1984.

They said the meeting ended when the president felt tired, and that he refused to shake any hands.

Despite the threats, the general strike continues, with most parts of the capital deserted, while security forces chased after unruly youths in a few popular neighborhoods on the outskirts of Conakry.

Tires were also set ablaze in interior cities, where looting and destruction of government offices has taken place.

On Wednesday, at least two deaths were reported during similar unrest. Police say the dead included a young boy, but they deny any live ammunition was used.

Journalist Maseco Conde says many Guineans are afraid now, but determined to continue in this strike action, which is longer and more encompassing than other recent ones.

But he says, so far, security forces have been better disciplined than usual.

Union leaders have called for marches, despite a government ban, but no major rallies have yet to take place.

Dustin Sharp, from the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, says it would be best if this remains the case.

"Everyone knows that they are moving into a very dangerous period," he said. "The government is terrified of mass demonstrations on the streets."

"There have been strikes going back years where a handful of people [were] either injured or gunned down during those strikes. The threat is not imaginary. The consequences and the possibilities of a blood bath are very real and I think they know that," he added.

The latest protest action was prompted when Mr. Conte went to a Conakry jail himself to unilaterally free two of his allies jailed as part of a corruption investigation.

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