Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Apparent assassination attempt against ailing Guinean leader

Earlier today, armed men attacked the motorcade of Guinea's leader Gen. Lansana Conté. The general was apparently unhurt.

Reuters and the Canada-based internet news service Guineenews (www.boubah.com) both reported that men in military uniform who appeared to be dissident soldiers had carried out the attack on Conte. Guineenews said one of the president's bodyguards had been seriously wounded in the incident, which took place in a suburb known as Enco 5, according to IRIN.

The country has been hit by a series of strikes and much social tension in the last several months. Conté, who is either 70 or 71 according to the Guinean government website (not 69 as the BBC reported), has been ailing for years as the result of severe diabetes. The government has been unable to address the deteriorating living conditions as the political class seems paralyzed while waiting for Conté, who has named no successor, to die.

Some speculated that the incident could've been the result of overzealous police officers shooting at criminals in a nearby area. Though, not surprisingly, the government is certain it was an assassination attempt. "There was an attempt on the life of the head of state, but the assailants did not hit their target," said Moussa Sampil, the security minister.

Conté has been head of state since taking over in a 1984 military coup.

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