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Guinea's Military Intensifies Protest


The presidential guard in Guinea blocked hundreds of soldiers from marching on the presidential palace in Conakry Friday. The soldiers are demanding back pay and calling on top military officials to resign. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Banks and shops quickly closed in the center of the capital, while residents fled the area.

Trucks full of soldiers, as well as soldiers on foot, headed toward the presidential palace in the early afternoon.

Journalist Maseco Conde, on the scene, said the soldiers were initially blocked by presidential guards.

Earlier in the day, negotiators for the soldiers met with Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate and demanded that military commanders be replaced.

Mr. Kouyate has been meeting with President Lansana Conte, but the angry soldiers have said they want to meet the president directly.

In another night of rioting Thursday, soldiers outside their barracks, all across the country, shot in the air. In the early morning hours Friday, two civilians were reported killed by stray bullets in the town of Kindia, east of Conakry.

The soldiers began their protest earlier this month, with nightly rampages of shooting and looting. They are demanding back pay they say they are owed since 1996.

Mr. Kouyate was recently named prime minister after a long strike by union leaders against government incompetence and corruption.

President Conte has been in power since a coup in 1984, despite his ailing health.

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