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Gunfire and barricades in Guinea as president heads for third term

Credit: REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI

Gunfire rang out across Guinea's capital Conakry on Friday and security forces dispersed protesters after results showed President Alpha Conde winning re-election in a poll that the opposition says was unconstitutional.

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Gunfire rang out across Guinea's capital Conakry on Friday and security forces dispersed protesters after results showed President Alpha Conde winning re-election in a poll that the opposition says was unconstitutional.

Conde, 82, won around twice as many votes as his nearest rival, opposition candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo, with 37 of 38 districts counted, according to preliminary results from the election commission on Thursday night.

The president's decision to run for a third term has sparked repeated protests over the past year, resulting in dozens of deaths, including at least 17 in skirmishes since Sunday's vote.

Conde says a constitutional referendum in March reset his two-term limit, but his opponents say he is breaking the law by holding onto power. Diallo's camp said it has found evidence of fraud and will contest the result in the constitutional court.

Gunfire was heard on Friday in the Sonfonia neighborhood of Conakry, where Diallo supporters clashed with security forces, witnesses said.

"There were warning shots. The police intervened to clear the barricades and disperse the demonstrators," Oumar Camara, a local resident, told Reuters.

ATTACK ON FUEL TRAIN

Several train cars carrying fuel belonging to Russian aluminum producer Rusal 0486.HK were also attacked in Sonfonia, said Saadou Nimaga, secretary general of the mining ministry.

Images shared on social media showed black liquid seeping out of fuel tanks.

Rusal said in a statement that supporters of an opposition candidate had blocked the railway and road it uses to move bauxite, an aluminum ore, to port but that that traffic had since resumed.

Guinea has the world's largest bauxite reserves.

In a statement, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy called on all parties to end the violence and said election disputes should be resolved peacefully through legal channels.

Conde, a former opposition leader who was sentenced to death in 1970 by Marxist President Sekou Toure, finally won the top job in 2010. His election raised hopes for democratic progress in the country but critics say he has stifled dissent.

Diallo, 68, is a former prime minister who finished runner-up to Conde in the 2010 and 2015 elections.

Friday's violence followed a series of clashes on Thursday in which four people were killed, according to Security Minister Damantang Albert Camara.

Internet and phone access were severely disrupted on Friday morning, residents and digital rights groups said. Authorities in Guinea, as in much of sub-Saharan Africa, have in the past cut internet during times of unrest.

The government was not available to comment on internet access on Friday, but network data for monitoring group NetBlocks showed that the internet was disrupted from 0730 GMT on Friday morning, including on leading cellular operator Orange ORAN.PA.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb and Edward McAllister; Additional reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow; Writing by Hereward Holland Editing by Aaron Ross and Andrew Cawthorne)

((hereward.holland@thomsonreuters.com; +254 20 499 1232; Reuters Messaging: hereward.holland.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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