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Guinea's Military Clash with Police in Conakry


Elements of Guinea's military have clashed with a special police unit in the capital Conakry after the start of a police strike. This closely follows a strike by junior members of the military in late May. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Local journalist Maseco Conde was on the scene shortly after the army clashed with the police at the headquarters of a special mobile police unit.

He says as opposed to Monday when the police strike began, it was now members of the military who were firing in the air.

They had apparently just looted the police headquarters, taking away mattresses, desks and motorcycles.

Conde says as opposed to Monday as well, when police had blocked roads, it was now the military setting up barricades. Witnesses said they were looking for policemen inside cars.

Conde says many civilians are afraid. He says he heard of one woman being wounded in the arm by a stray bullet. He says many shops and gas stations were closed with civilians staying indoors.

Conde says many people are afraid this could turn into all-out confrontation between police and the military.

Witnesses said troubles between the two security forces started when police arrested two soldiers on Monday and took away their vehicle as part of their strike action, demanding higher pay. They also kidnapped top police officials.

A similar undisciplined strike last month by junior members of the military led to promises of back pay and widespread promotions.

These events coincide with the recent firing of post-2007 civil strife consensus prime minister Lansana Kouyate and his replacement by Ahmed Tidiane Souare, who is close to long standing President Lansana Conte.

Often in these cases, Corinne Dufka from New York-based Human Rights Watch, explains, it is civilians who are victimized the most.

"What often happens when there are these sorts of conflicts, these problems within the various different security forces is we get civilians who are hurt and sometimes killed in the balance. We got that last year and again recently when the military went on the rampage," said Dufka. "They fired in the air with very little discipline and of course what comes up must come down. There were a number of individuals who were wounded and possibly even worse during that time."

Guinea has vast reserves of timber, gold, diamond and bauxite, but crumbling infrastructure and a very low percentage of formal employment.

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