Schalk Van Zuydam  /  AP
People at the capital's main mosque in Conakry, Guinea, on Friday look for the bodies of family members and friends that were killed by troops during a rally.
updated 10/2/2009 8:51:56 PM ET 2009-10-03T00:51:56

Guinea's leader, who seized power in a coup nine months ago, said elections will continue as planned even as his military junta prepared to bury the scores of people who died when troops fired live ammunition into a pro-democracy rally.

Wearing a crisp military uniform, Capt. Moussa "Dadis" Camara on Friday laid a wreath in memory of the victims of Monday's massacre. Camara previously said he had no control over the troops — including his own presidential guard force — who committed the massacre.

On Friday, he took the offensive, saying opposition leaders were to blame for the protesters' deaths because they had defied a ban and organized the pro-democracy rally. He said the election would proceed as scheduled on Jan. 31. But, refusing to address the issue that sparked Monday's protest, he did not say whether he would run.

"They will be free and fair," he said of the elections.

Outside the main mosque in this sweltering seaside capital, family members, many weeping and others shouting in anger, looked for bodies of their slain loved ones in about 10 makeshift tents. Inside the tents, the bodies were bound tightly in white cloth, laying on wooden pallets. Heavily armed police and soldiers kept watch over the mourners, who numbered over 1,000.

"This is absolute chaos," said one mourner, Mamadou Balde, who came to search for a relative. "We have only come here just hoping that we will see our brother. Otherwise I believe the soldiers have buried more corpses than we see here."

A human-rights group says 157 people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded on Monday when soldiers opened fire at 50,000 people at the national soccer stadium. The government put the death toll at 57.

"I did not say people were not killed, but this was caused by the fault of politicians," Camara said at celebrations marking Guinea's independence from France 51 years ago.

Tensions remained high as opposition leaders snubbed Camara's offer to form a national unity government, saying the massacre must be investigated and those responsible held accountable.

Opposition leaders among injured
The victims were participating in a protest in the capital's main soccer stadium against Camara, who seized power in a coup last December. The injured included several top opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Cellou Diallo, who flew to France late Thursday for treatment.

Mamadou Ba Badiko, head of an opposition party, said he is not interested in the offer Camara made after the massacre to form a national unity government.

"How can you talk about a national union government when in the first place you have not made clear who gave orders to ... shoot our people?" he said. "In any case, a national union government is not on the agenda right now."

Monday's bloody protest raised concerns that Camara's grip on the country may be slipping. Camara, a previously unknown army captain in his 40s, was welcomed when he seized power just hours after the death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte.

Camara initially said he would not run in elections scheduled for January, but recently indicated that he may have changed his mind. After Monday's protest, he banned all gatherings and demonstrations.

Since winning independence 51 years ago from France, Guinea has been pillaged by its ruling elite. Its 10 million people are among the world's poorest, even though its soil has diamonds, gold, iron and half the world's reserves of the raw material used to make aluminum.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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