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Guinea’s president wounded in attack

By Rukmini Callimachi
Associated Press / December 4, 2009

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CONAKRY, Guinea - A renegade faction of Guinea’s presidential guard opened fire on the African country’s leader yesterday, slightly wounding him amid rumors of deep divisions within the army nearly three months after a military-led massacre of protesters at a peaceful rally.

President Moussa “Dadis’’ Camara was shot at by his military aide, who heads the presidential guard, said Communications Minister Idrissa Cherif. A statement read on state TV said that the 45-year-old president had been slightly wounded but that his life was not in danger.

“The president of the republic is still the president of the republic and he is in good health,’’ Cherif said as military helicopters and sporadic shooting could be heard in downtown Conakry.

Cherif said Camara had left the country’s main military barracks from where he has been running the country since seizing power in a military-led coup 11 months ago. He headed downtown to a military camp housing hundreds of men under the control of Abubakar “Toumba’’ Diakite, the president’s aide-de-camp. The shooting occurred inside the camp.

The shooting underscores the deep rifts inside the military clique that grabbed control of the nation of 10 million on Africa’s western coast just 11 months ago. Camara had initially promised to organize elections quickly, but then reversed course and began hinting that he planned to run for office, prompting a massive protest Sept. 28.

Diakite is accused of having led the presidential guard that opened fire on the peaceful demonstrators who had gathered inside the capital’s national stadium. At least 157 people were killed and dozens of women were raped by the red beret-wearing presidential guard. At least 20 women were kidnapped and driven away in military trucks to private villas where they were drugged and videotaped while they were being gang raped over several days, according to three survivors as well as several human rights groups.

The massacre led the European Union and the African Union to impose sanctions on Guinea, including on top members of the junta, who are now the subject of a travel ban. Sources inside the military say that it deeply aggravated divisions that were already present and has led to the clique fracturing further. Members of the junta, including Diakite, are believed to lead private armies that are faithful only to them.