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The French government is recommending that its nationals leave the volatile West African country of Guinea, nearly three weeks after a brutal army crackdown against protesters. The move comes a day after the International Criminal Court in The Hague said it would investigate the September killings.
French officials say they have no immediate plans to evacuate an estimated 2,500 French nationals living in Guinea. But on its Web site, France's foreign ministry strongly urged French not to travel to Guinea and for those currently there to leave. The families of U.S. diplomats in Guinea are also being sent home.
The situation in the West African country remains volatile, after presidential guards opened fire on tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters on September 28. The United Nations and local human rights groups say 157 people were shot dead during the rally at a Conakry stadium. Guinea's ruling military junta, led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, gave a far lower death toll of 57.
The army crackdown has drawn strong international condemnation, including on the part of the United States and Guinea's former colonial power France - which called for international intervention in Guinea. On Thursday, the International Criminal Court announced it was opening a preliminary investigation into the violence - a move hailed by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
In remarks to French radio, Kouchner called the shootings and reports of rape 'savage' and 'unsupportable.' He said the criminal court's decision to investigate the incidents marked a good step forward for international justice.
Protesters at the September rally were calling on Captain Camara to step down. The junta leader, who seized power less than a year ago, previously said he would not run in elections scheduled for January but has since indicated he may change his mind. Three cabinet ministers have resigned this week in protest against the violence last month.