By ADAM NOSSITER
Published: September 29, 2009
DAKAR, Senegal Streets were deserted and shops were
shut tight Tuesday in Conakry, Guinea, a day after government
troops went on a brutal rampage at an opposition rally, shooting,
stabbing, raping and assaulting dozens of men and women in a packed
Images from Reuters TV showed the rally as it began and as it was broken up by troops who shot, stabbed, raped and assaulted dozens of men and women, witnesses and human rights groups said.
Hospitals in the city were full of the wounded from what opponents of the military government here termed a massacre, and human rights groups continued to revise upward the number of dead, saying Tuesday that about 157 people are known to have been killed.
Over a thousand victims had suffered gunshot wounds or other injuries, the groups said.
Fresh assaults were said to have taken place in some neighborhoods on Tuesday, with soldiers shooting in the air and pursuing and firing on opponents of the government, according to several opposition figures. They said several new deaths had been recorded Tuesday. Houses of opposition leaders were ransacked and shops were looted by uniformed men, they said. But they said a precise death toll was impossible to ascertain because the army had removed bodies from the stadium where as many as 50,000 had gathered to protest the ruling military junta. All described an atmosphere of tension in Conakry, the West African nations seaside capital.
Even with Guineas long history of government brutality, killings and torture, the violence on Monday came as a shock. Witnesses said women were raped in public by the soldiers and sexually assaulted with their guns; the military fired repeated volleys on unarmed civilians at point-blank range, human rights officials said. The most brutal soldiers were identified as belonging to the elite, red-beret-wearing presidential guard. The citizens had gathered to protest plans by the junta leader, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, to run in Januarys presidential election, after promising he would not. Captain Camara, 45, a once obscure officer with responsibilities in the refueling detail, seized power last December in a coup détat after the death of the longtime dictator Lansana Conté.
On Monday evening, Captain Camara brushed off responsibility, in the rambling style for which he has become known since the coup. I wasnt myself in the stadium, he said in an interview with Radio France Internationale. They told me there was stampeding, and they told me also there were gunshots, and that some people stole weapons from a police station. So, in this human flood, there were gunshots. Were talking here about an uncontrolled movement. Even the chief of state cant control this movement.
But numerous witnesses, human rights officials and video shot at the stadium painted a far more chilling picture, of defenseless citizens, many carrying branches to signify they were unarmed, set on by a frenzied band of uniformed men. They were caught in a trap, said Dr. Thierno Maadjou Sow, who leads the Guinean Organization for Human Rights. They fired at point-blank range. They raped women in front of everybody. They stabbed people with bayonets. They raped women with guns. This is a savagery that cant be explained. Whats going on with us here is horrible, he said. The people are in shock here.
France, the former colonial master, announced it was suspending
military aid and sharply condemned the violence, as did other
nations, including the United States. Captain Camara, meanwhile,
visited several of the hospitals treating the wounded on Tuesday
evening, according to news agency reports.
We have never seen this before, said Bakary Fofana, an official in a federation of civil-society organizations in Guinea. Its difficult to understand, all this violence. It shows a determination of the military to remain in power, and to destroy all resistance.