By Agence France-Presse
Two youths were shot dead and several other people were wounded in clashes between Guinean police and protesters at a funeral march for those killed in recent anti-government demonstrations, the authorities and the family of one of the victims said.
Violence erupted as hundreds marched in the capital Conakry carrying coffins of people killed in unrest since mid-October that has shaken the poor West African country.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets over suspicions that President Alpha Conde is seeking to prolong his rule.
According to an opposition toll, around 15 protesters have been killed during the weeks of bloody clashes with security forces, with dozens injured. The government has said one police officer was killed, but have not given an updated number of casualties.
At Monday’s march, hundreds of people including relatives and opposition figures marched on foot or by motorbike through the Bambeto neighborhood, bearing aloft the coffins of 11 of those killed since October 24 draped in the national flag.
The marchers chanted “Justice for the dead” and “Alpha, killer” as they made their way from the hospital where victims’ remains had been held and a mosque where pre-burial prayers were planned.
Clashes broke out on the route, with youths hurling stones at riot police who responded with tear gas. Witnesses said they also fired live rounds into the crowd.
Abdourahim Diallo, 17, was shot in the stomach at “point-blank” range when he went to attend the funeral of a friend who was killed two weeks ago, his sister Diariana told AFP. She said he died of his injuries in hospital.
The security ministry subsequently said that a second youth had died.
According to the opposition, the authorities had tried to ensure the funeral procession did not go through central Conakry.
The National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), an alliance of opposition groups that is behind the protests, had planned the funeral march last week.
But authorities had kept the bodies until Monday morning, saying autopsies were ongoing.
Conde has blamed the protesters for the gunfire and accused the opposition of trying to overthrow the government.
The 81-year-old, whose second term ends next year, launched constitutional consultations in September, saying the former French colony’s basic law “concentrates corporate interests” and needed reform.
But his adversaries say the president will try to push through an amendment allowing him to seek a third term in the nation of 13 million.
He has neither confirmed nor denied his intention to seek a third term in elections due in 2020.
The government has said at least eight protesters and the police officer have been killed since October 14, when opposition parties, unions, and civil society groups mobilized.
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets on October 24, according to local journalists, while organizers put the turnout at around a million, and the government said the protesters numbered 30,000.
Conde, a former opposition figure who was jailed and spent time in exile under Guinea’s previous authoritarian regimes, became the country’s first democratically elected president in 2010.
But critics say his rule has become increasingly authoritarian. About 100 demonstrators have been shot dead by police since he came to power, according to the opposition.