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Death Toll Rises from Crackdown in Guinea

The death toll from the ongoing strike action in Guinea has risen to at least 60 people. Some protesters who were injured during Monday's security crackdown died in poorly serviced hospitals. Union leaders are continuing the protest while local humanitarian workers are struggling to answer growing needs. Kari Barber reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Human rights advocates fear the death toll could go even higher. They say some families do not have the means to take their dead relatives to morgues.

Most of the dead were in Conakry, but activists say protesters were also killed during the crackdown in more remote areas and have yet to be counted.

There were no major protests Friday, but the three-week strike continues, with most shops still closed and social services severely limited.

Mamady Cisse is director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in southern Guinea. He says a major concern is that a decrease in food deliveries because of the strike has caused the price of the main staple, rice, to nearly double.

Cisse says he wants to see international organizations mediate negotiations between the commission of strikers and the government to quickly end the protest.

Spokesman Marcus Prior of the United Nations World Food Program says his organization, which typically operates on the border providing food for refugees, is feeding the injured at the main hospital in Conakry.

But Prior says with the possibility of more violence, the World Food Program is concerned about the safety of its aid workers.

"We are obviously being careful of what we do and where our staff go and how they work. But the important thing is our work is being done," he said.

President Lasana Conte has agreed in principle to strike leaders demands that a new consensus prime minister be named. The two sides are now haggling over the powers that the prime minister should have.

The strike was prompted when Mr. Conte freed two of his allies from jail. Many protesters and some union leaders have asked for his resignation amid grinding poverty and crumbling government services.