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Guinea Investigates Possible Assassination Attempt

Guinea police are investigating a possible assassination attempt against long-time President Lansana Conte, who says it was an attack by external enemies.

Dozens of young men who were detained following the shooting incident were interrogated at police stations in Conakry as investigators also tried to track down the unknown number of gunmen.

Security forces were visible throughout the city, including outside mosques, as most civilians quietly celebrated the Muslim holiday known locally as Tabaskie.

A top police official, who wished to remain anonymous, says he believes dissident soldiers were behind the alleged attack. State radio says it took place midday Wednesday in the Enco-Five suburb of the capital as President Conte traveled in a convoy of cars on his way back from his home village.

Two of his guards were reported wounded by light arms fire - one of them seriously - but the 70-year-old diabetic, chain-smoking president was unharmed.

In a speech late Wednesday on state television, he said he had survived a foreign-led plot to eliminate him.

He said he annoys many people because he is not easily manipulated. He said he believes Africans are under threat from outsiders who want to impede their development.

Guinea has many mineral resources, but remains one of the world's poorest countries. In recent weeks, there have repeated protests in the capital and other cities over rising prices for basic goods and deteriorating services in phone lines and electricity. Opposition leader Mohamed Diane says this indicates it could have been a set-up.

Mr. Diane says the whole incident could be a ploy by the president to boost his popularity and organize a crackdown against his opponents. He says it will be very difficult to find out what exactly happened.

Mr. Conte won re-election for a new seven-year term in late 2003, in an election marked by fraud and intimidation. He has been in power since a coup in 1984, and has kept Guinea mostly stable, while neighbors Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ivory Coast have all experienced civil war.