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Guinea Marks Somber Independence Day


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Guinea's military ruler used the nation's independence day to express his sympathy for the families of those killed during Monday's protest against him. The military is calling for a government of national unity in the wake of that violence. Opposition politicians say this week's killing makes that impossible.

Military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara used Guinea's 51st anniversary of independence to express his "profound sympathy" for the families of those killed in Monday's unrest.

In a televised address, he said September 28 is from now on a symbol of violence in Guinea. But he declined to say who is responsible for that violence.

Human rights groups in Guinea say at least 157 people were killed when security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Conakry's main sports stadium who were protesting Captain Camara's expected run for the presidency.

Guinea's military says 57 people were killed, most in the crush of protestors trying to flee the stadium. Following the violence, Captain Camara blamed his political opponents, saying they should not have staged an illegal protest knowing that Guinea's military has, what he calls, "uncontrollable elements."

But he neither blamed his opponents nor took responsibility for his own security forces Friday, instead repeating a call for a government of national unity to manage the transition to elections next year.

The coalition of political parties, civil society groups, and trade unions that organized Mondays' protest says the military's violent repression of dissent makes internal dialogue impossible.

A coalition statement says demonstrators were "trapped, brutalized, humiliated, beaten, raped, stabbed, and killed" by drugged members of the army.

Guinea's military took power in December following the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte. Captain Camara said the military had no wish to cling to power and that none of the coup leaders would stand for election.

But the ruling military council has since decided that all Guineans are eligible to run in presidential and legislative elections scheduled for next year. Captain Camara has not formally announced his candidacy, but he has told his supporters that he will not insult them by ignoring their demands that he run.