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South Africa Marks Anniversary of Killing of Miners

South African mineworkers held a memorial service Friday for the 34 miners shot dead by police one year ago during an illegal strike.

The service took place at the site of the shooting, the Lonmin platinum mine in the northern town of Marikana. Officials from the ruling ANC party stayed away from the event, as did leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Workers at the platinum mine struck for higher wages last year at the urging of a rival union. Days of rising tension culminated in a clash August 16 when police opened fire on the miners.

Police said the miners were armed with guns and that officers had been acting in self-defense.

Pictures later revealed that the miners had only been carrying sticks and homemade spears.

It was South Africa's bloodiest labor incident since the end of apartheid nearly 20 years ago.

Lonmin eventually relented, promising higher wages and a better standard of living.

However, miners say a year later, Lonmin - the world's third largest platinum producer - has changed little at its Marikana site. They say few workers have seen a wage hike and the living conditions remain abysmal.

Human Rights Watch says the tragedy at the Lonmin mine "highlighted the poverty and the grievances" of many workers in the mining industry.