Guinea

Guinea: Soldiers continue looting after president concedes to demands

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CONAKRY, 14 May 2007 (IRIN) - Guinea's President Lansana Conte conceded to the main demand of mutinous rioting soldiers on Saturday morning by replacing the country's minister of defence and other top army commanders yet the soldiers continued to riot in the afternoon sacking shops and warehouses in Conakry, including offices of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The current defence minister Arafan Camara will be replaced by retired army general Mamadou Bailo Diallo, according to a decree read on state radio on Saturday. However President Conte did not hold a meeting with representatives of the discontent soldiers on Saturday as he had promised.

For the last two weeks hundreds of troops have been demonstrating and shooting weapons in the air from barracks around the West African country. So far at least six people have been killed and 70 wounded, according to the prime minister, Lansana Kouyate.

On Saturday evening IRIN saw soldiers robbing civilians in Conakry and looting shops and warehouses. Witnesses said men in army uniforms stole vehicles and looted cacao, rice and sugar, as well electrical equipment such as generators.

Witness also said soldiers were responsible for a raid on UNFPA's stores, stealing stocks of condoms as well as computer equipment. UN facilities were also targeted during a civil uprising earlier this year when World Food Programme warehouses in several towns were looted.

Conakry was calm again on Sunday and Monday and police said some of the soldiers found looting were arrested, but many people in Conakry said they still feared the shooting could break out again at any moment.

On Friday banks, schools, markets and shops all closed at around 11.30am as news spread that heavily armed soldiers were marching into town, after talks between senior military officials and soldiers at a military base near the airport collapsed.

In the morning IRIN saw presidential guards, distinguished by their red berets, in the centre of the city. They were shooting in the air in what appeared to be an attempt to scare off the mutinous soldiers, but the presidential guards were outnumbered and eventually fled.

Also see: GUINEA: Government on the brink as soldiers rampage

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