Wed, Dec 09, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Commandos arrest civilians in Guinea

RENEGADE SOLDIER The arrests came a day after the Guinea’s junta announced a toll-free number people could call with tips on the whereabouts of a wanted lieutenant

AP , CONAKRY

Commando units loyal to the wounded leader of Guinea’s military junta have swept through neighborhoods near the capital, arresting civilians believed to have ties with the renegade soldier that tried to assassinate their leader.

The arrests came late on Monday, as the ruling junta tried to reassure the population about the president’s health. It insisted that Captain Moussa “Dadis” Camara was recovering well from surgery in a Moroccan hospital where he had been rushed for emergency treatment, but the capital remained tense as the fate of the military dictatorship remained unknown.

Residents said that at least three military pickup trucks filled with soldiers descended on a street of corrugated tin shops, looking for a local witch doctor. The young man fled but was pursued by the soldiers, who opened fire, wounding him, residents said. He is rumored to have been one of the witch doctors that performed spells for Lieutenant Abubakar “Toumba” Diakite, the former head of the presidential guard, who opened fire on the head of the junta last Thursday.

The security sweep showed that the military is widening its net to include civilians. Earlier, only soldiers allied with Diakite had been arrested. The arrests came one day after the junta announced a toll-free number where citizens could call with tips on the whereabouts of the wanted lieutenant.

The soldiers came back three different times, arresting four people in all, including an imam in his 70s or 80s who was returning from evening prayers at the local mosque. The arrests and the volleys of gunfire sowed panic. It reverberated across the capital as Guinea entered a fifth day without a clear sense of whether the 45-year-old army captain who grabbed power in a coup a year ago would survive his wounds.

In an effort to tamp down speculation that he was badly hurt, the country’s foreign minister said on Monday that Camara is conscious and speaking.

“I saw him, I spoke to him, he answered me, all this shows that he retains his mental faculties,” Alexandre Cece Loua said in Rabat. “He recognizes his entourage. His breathing is not assisted.”

But a doctor who saw Camara’s CAT scan and who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because of patient confidentiality said the bullet had skimmed the right side of the leader’s skull, causing a splinter of bone to wedge itself in his brain.

He said the injury could be life-threatening if it causes excessive swelling in the brain, but he added that he was told by the technician who administered the scan that Camara had been able to step inside the CAT scan tunnel without assistance.

Even if the piece of bone can be removed, the doctor said Camara could suffer mental impairments, especially memory loss, given that the frontal part of the brain, where memory is stored, was affected.

Opposition leaders held a meeting on Monday at the home of Jean Marie Dore, the spokesman for the various opposition voices in the country.

“What we need to know is the exact status of his health. How is he really doing? Until we know that, it is very hard to make a decision on how to move forward,” Dore said.

Camara came to power last December after the death of the country’s former strongman, Lansana Conte — who was also a captain in the Guinean army when he grabbed power 24 years earlier.

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