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Guinea in state of emergency as clashes kill 9

By Joe Penney for CNN
A woman cries on Thursday at the death of a relative killed in the wake of Guinean presidential elections.
A woman cries on Thursday at the death of a relative killed in the wake of Guinean presidential elections.
  • State of emergency will last until election results are final, official says
  • Supporters of rival presidential candidates have clashed since results came out Monday
  • Defeated candidate says government wants to kill his supporters in Peul ethnic group
  • Government official says he doesn't think security forces have fired on civilians
  • Guinea

Conakry, Guinea (CNN) -- Authorities in the West African nation of Guinea have declared a state of emergency amid post-election violence that has killed at least nine people, the government said Wednesday on national radio.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Nouhou Thiam said the state of emergency was established in response to attacks by civilians on security forces. "Groups with malevolent intentions are deliberately attacking the forces of order," said Thiam, who read the decree on state radio before contacting foreign diplomats and civil society groups.

But doctors and local residents blamed many of the deaths on government security forces.

Supporters of rival Guinean presidential candidates have clashed with each other and with security forces in Conakry, the capital, and other cities in northern Guinea, since Monday, when Alpha Conde was declared the winner of the November 7 runoff election. At least nine people have been killed in the past three days.

Thiam said the state of emergency "is aimed at preserving the peace, tranquility and national unity," and will last until the Supreme Court issues final results of the presidential election.

Almost all shops and businesses were closed and most residents remained indoors.

An overnight curfew restricted the gathering of people for any purpose and gave the military the right to check identification of any pedestrians or automobiles. People were still allowed to move freely throughout the city.

Thierno Barry, a doctor at Clinique Dixinn in Conakry, said that he had seen since Monday the bodies of five people killed by gunfire from Guinean security forces.

Dr. Mory Kaba said he had seen one fatality and 30 people wounded at Ratoma Hospital, where he works,

Cellou Dalein Diallo, the defeated candidate who is contesting the election results, told reporters Wednesday that at least 18 of his supporters have been killed by security forces since Monday in his strongholds in Conakry and the northern towns of Labe, Dalaba and Pita.

A spokesman for the Guinean government said that he did not think any security forces had fired on Diallo's supporters.

"To my knowledge, I don't think so," said Ousmane Fofana, special ambassador to the presidency, when asked whether security forces had fired on civilians.

But Fofana added that he was not in close contact with security forces in Conakry's impoverished suburbs. "Since this morning I have been in the office," he said.

Mohamed Saliou Sow, a resident of Hamdallaye, said he saw the election security force Fossepel shoot his friend, Abdoulaye Bah.

"The kid said he was going to look for food near the railroads, because we had nothing to eat," Sow said. "He was with his friends, his back was turned, he didn't see the Fossepel guys. They shot him in the back. He died soon after, yelling, 'Ah! They hit me!'"

Election results showed many Guineans voted along ethnic and regional lines, with Malinke strongly in favor of their candidate, Conde, and the ethnic Peul, also known as Fulani, supporting the Peul candidate, Diallo.

Sow said Peul residents of his neighborhood woke him up Tuesday night to fight ethnic Malinke soldiers.

"At 1 a.m. the neighborhood imam called me to wake me, saying, 'Where are you?' I told him 'I'm sleeping.' He said, 'Get up, I heard shots. The Malinke are coming,'" Sow said.

"The city will calm down in a few days, we are used to this type of situation," said Kaba, the Malinke doctor, adding that in his opinion, security forces were not doing enough to control the "Peul youth who started the violence." He said that, in the southern town of Gueckedou, residents have responded to recent events by attacking the Peul.

Sow said that the ethnic Peul in his neighborhood are likely to respond soon. "We are not scared. If this continues we will have to do the same to them," he said.

A resident in Labe, a Peul-majority city in the northern Fouta Djallon highlands, said that Peul youths have attacked the Malinke, leading them to seek refuge in military bases near the city.

A resident of Pita, a town about five hours northeast of the capital, said three people were killed there by gunshots from a Conde supporter who had been attacked by Diallo supporters. The resident, citing security concerns, asked not to be identified,

Diallo said that the government is plotting to kill people from the Peul ethnic group who support him, despite his repeated attempts to alert international and national authorities.

"Despite the complaints I made to the International Group of Contact on Guinea [a U.N. body] and [President] Gen. Sekouba Konate, the repression continued today more brutally then ever," Diallo told CNN on Wednesday.

"The government must fulfill their responsibilities. If they don't, we will have to tell people to defend themselves," Diallo said.

An SMS message has been circulating among the Peul community in Conakry that reads: "A part of the army that wants to eliminate the Peul community will make the rounds starting at 7 p.m. Pass this message to all your Peul friends and family."

Residents of some of Conakry's impoverished suburbs told CNN that military officials fired live ammunition throughout the night and entered houses to make arbitrary arrests.

The presidential election was the first in Guinea's 52-year history. The U.S.-based Carter Center and a European Union election group both monitored the voting and said they had found no major problems. But supporters of Diallo said voter fraud was widespread, with more ballots cast in certain areas than there were people registered to vote.

As winner, Conde will get unparalleled access to lucrative mining contracts for the ruling party. In the past, Guinean presidents have favored their own ethnic groups, which is why many have openly worried that their community would be shut out of the resources if they lose.

Guinea, rich in minerals, is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Its new president will have to deal with myriad infrastructure problems, like the widespread lack of electricity and running water.