- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2009

CONAKRY, Guinea | Guinea’s military leader banned all gatherings and demonstrations and called for two days of mourning starting Wednesday after troops opened fire on 50,000 protesters for democracy at a stadium rally earlier this week.

A top opposition leader said his faction had no plans to hold another demonstration.

A human rights group said 157 people were killed and more than 1,200 were wounded, while the government maintains 57 died - most being trampled.

Flags fluttered at half-staff in the capital’s quiet streets Wednesday morning. Shops, schools and fuel stations were closed.

“Our priority is to bury our dead and to take care of our wounded,” opposition leader Sidya Toure told the Associated Press by phone. “We are very far from making any demonstration plans. You know, Conakry is a very small town, people are traumatized.”

Mr. Toure, a former prime minister, was arrested during the protests and released Tuesday. He said that he suffered head wounds and that he returned home to find his house had been ransacked. The house was also used as opposition party headquarters.

The European Union, meanwhile, was meeting in Brussels to decide on potential sanctions against the military regime, Agence France-Presse reported.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay also called for an independent inquiry into the “bloodbath.”

Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara appeared on state television late Tuesday, blaming the opposition for acting irresponsibly in Monday’s demonstration and calling for an inquiry.

The protest in the capital’s main soccer stadium turned bloody when Capt. Camara’s presidential guard opened fire into the crowd of 50,000, scattering panicked demonstrators and leaving behind scores of dead. Opposition politician Mutarr Diallo said he witnessed soldiers raping women with rifle butts.

Capt. Camara said the government would pay the families of the wounded and dead. He also warned religious leaders, politicians and the media against inciting violence.

Mr. Toure said that he had recognized several members of Guinea’s junta in the stadium during demonstrations, including Capt. Camara’s nephew and his top aide.

Eyewitnesses told New York-based Human Rights Watch that security forces stripped female protesters and raped them in the streets during Monday’s protest. The rights group, citing eyewitness reports, said soldiers also stabbed protesters with knives and bayonets.

Hardly anyone had heard of Capt. Camara, an army officer in his 40s, until his men broke down the glass doors of the state TV station Dec. 23 after the death of longtime leader Lansana Conte. Capt. Camara announced that the constitution had been dissolved and that the country was under the rule of a military junta.

Since the coup, tensions have risen amid rumors that Capt. Camara may run in presidential elections scheduled for Jan. 31. Capt. Camara initially indicated that he would not, but said recently he has the right to do so.

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