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Armed attack on Guinean president repelled-sources

27 September 2011, 11:13

CONAKRY, July 19 - Heavily armed assailants attacked the residence of Guinean President Alpha Conde early on Tuesday, killing one person while Conde escaped injury and is safe, a presidency source and eyewitnesses said.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack on Conde, who came to power last December in an election aimed at drawing a line under decades of instability and coups in the West African nation.

"The president was there, but he is safe and sound," said the presidency source.

Eyewitnesses said the attack took place at Conde's personal residence at around 1.30 a.m. local time and lasted over an hour. It was repelled by Conde's personal guard.

"The kitchen is covered in blood and part of the building is riddled with bullet holes," said one eyewitness who declined to be identified, saying the main gate had been blown out with a rocket-launcher.

Neither the presidential source nor a second source close to the presidency said they had any information at this stage on who the attackers were. There was no information on the identity of the person killed in the attack.

Conde came to power in the world's largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite last December after the first free election in the West African country since independence from France half a century before.

The country had been ruled by a military junta since the death of longtime leader Lansana Conte in 2008.

Guinea has a long history of authoritarian rule and its security forces have a reputation for brutality against dissidents as well as indiscipline.

However observers say there has been a marked improvement in army discipline since Conde came to power. He has put in place a new army leadership and appointed himself defence minister to try to drive security reform.

Former junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara -- whose security forces killed over 150 opposition demonstrators in a September 2009 attack -- is in exile in Burkina Faso after being wounded in an assassination attempt.

A close former aide to Camara, Colonel Moussa Keita, was arrested on July 1 after he accused Sekouba Konate, the army official who engineered the transition back to civilian power, of having defrauded $22 million from the state.

The 2009 election was marked by ethnic tensions between rival groups linked to Conde and his main challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo, whose Peul ethnic group accounts for around 40 percent of the population.

While Diallo conceded defeat, political tensions have simmered, with Diallo's UFDG opposing Conde's plans to carry out an electoral census and revamp the voter roll before a parliamentary election Conde wants to hold by year-end.

The UFDG wants the census to be carried out by an independent electoral body rather than the government.

- Reuters

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