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Guinea’s president escapes coup attempt

Guinea President Lansana Conte escaped an apparent assassination try Wednesday when gunmen fired on his convoy in Conakry, police said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Guinea President Lansana Conte escaped an apparent assassination attempt on Wednesday when gunmen opened fire on his convoy in the capital of the West African nation, police and state television said.

Conte was unharmed, but a member of a security team riding a motorcycle alongside the convoy was seriously wounded, a senior police official said on condition of anonymity.

An announcer on state TV also said Conte was not hurt, adding that the president called on all Guineans to remain calm.

Government officials could not be reached to confirm the reports, but presidential guards and soldiers tightened security around the presidential palace and other key installations, including the state radio and TV station.

Forces on patrol
Troops could be seen patrolling the city in force. A tank blocked a road in one residential neighborhood, where troops stopped passing cars at a checkpoint. Several young men were arrested, bound and placed in back of military trucks. The city was calm otherwise, residents said.

The attack occurred around Wednesday afternoon near a railroad crossing in a crowded suburb called Enco 5 as Conte was returning from Wawa, his home village, the security official said. Bullets struck several vehicles in the convoy, but did not stop it.

The suburb, 15 miles northeast of the city center, is considered part of the capital, which spreads across a peninsula that juts into the Atlantic.

In control since 1984
Conte has ruled the former French colony since seizing power during a 1984 military coup. He is rarely seen in public.

Conte won a landslide election in December 2003 after opposition parties pulled out, alleging Conte had no intention of organizing free or transparent elections. The government denied the charges.

After announcing the assassination attempt, state TV broadcast images of Conte’s presidential inauguration last year to mark the first anniversary of the swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 19, 2004.

Guinea has only had one other leader since it gained independence from France in 1958. Former dictator Sekou Toure died in 1984 during heart surgery at a U.S. hospital. Conte, then an army colonel, staged a coup and declared himself president a week later.

Despite rich mineral resources, Guinea is among the world’s most-impoverished countries.