* Toll has reached at least eight dead, 220 injured
* Opposition claims May elections to be rigged
CONAKRY, March 5 Two more people were killed in
clashes between government and opposition supporters in Guinea,
officials said on Tuesday, as election protests fuelled by
ethnic rivalries spread to more towns in the West African
The toll from the protests has reached at least eight dead
and some 220 injured since the opposition took to the streets on
Wednesday saying the government was attempting to steal
legislative elections scheduled for mid May.
Guinea is the world's top supplier of the aluminium ore
bauxite and holds rich deposits of iron ore but political
turmoil has cooled the investment climate, particularly in the
wake of a 2008 military coup.
On Monday, Reuters reported that Guinea's main human rights
watchdog, OGDH, said that one protester had been shot dead and
six others wounded when security forces opened fire in the
crumbling coastal capital.
On Tuesday, OGDH President Thierno Maadjou Sow said another
victim killed by a gunshot had been discovered. Officials said a
third body had been found but provided no details.
"There are three dead between yesterday and today,"
government spokesman Damatang Albert Camara said. "We are
investigating the circumstances."
Witnesses in Conakry accuse security forces of carrying out
reprisals against opposition supporters. Police spokesman
Mamadou Alpha Barry said some officers may have made errors.
"There are clashes between supporters of the government and
the opposition. That is what we are trying to stop," Barry told
Reuters. "At the same time, we are taking steps to stop some
members of the security forces who may have committed mistakes."
Guinea's notoriously ill-disciplined security forces have a
history of brutal crackdowns on protests.
Gunfire broke out on Monday shortly after Guinea's main
opposition leaders boycotted a meeting called by President Alpha
Conde to discuss preparations for May's vote, meant to complete
a transition to civilian rule after the 2008 coup.
Disturbances have since spread from the capital to other
towns in the interior of Guinea. Opposition supporters have
clashed with security forces in the opposition fiefdom of Labe,
as well as Pita and Mamou.
Behind Guinea's political feuding there is a deep-rooted
rivalry between the Malinke and the Peul, its two largest ethnic
groups. The Malinke broadly support Conde, who comes from that
ethnic group, while the opposition draws heavily from the Peul.
Preparations for the vote, which is essential to unlock
hundreds of millions of dollars in European aid to the world's
largest bauxite supplier, are being hampered by opposition
claims that the government is seeking to rig the outcome.
(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by
David Lewis and Michael Roddy)