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Guinea junta sacks soldiers, prison officers after ex-dictator’s jailbreak

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Guinea junta sacks soldiers, prison officers after ex-dictator’s jailbreak

Guinea’s ruling junta has purged 60 soldiers and prison officers from the security services after a jailbreak that saw armed commandos pluck ex-dictator Moussa Dadis Camara from prison and left nine dead, officials said Monday.

Heavily armed men burst into the prison in the capital Conakry early Saturday, taking Camara and three other former senior officials who are on trial alongside him over a 2009 massacre during his presidency.

Nine people died in the raid, according to a provisional toll.

It remains unclear if the group had escaped or been taken against their will as their lawyers have stated.

The army described the operation as an attempt to “sabotage” government reforms and swore its “unwavering commitment” to the current military-led regime.

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The authorities have repeatedly called for calm and declared they have the situation under control.

“Thank God, the chaos that evil minds (wanted) to provoke after this event, this chaos has been halted,” Guinea’s Prime Minister Bernard Goumou said on Sunday.

He urged people to “remain calm, stay peaceful and may everyone carry on quietly about their business”.

Life returned to normal on Monday in the Kaloum government and business district that also houses the main prison in Conakry.

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But security forces were closely checking vehicles entering the district, looking for weapons and the last escaped prisoner, Colonel Claude Pivi, who is still on the run.

Camara’s lawyer and the army announced later on Saturday that he had been recaptured and was back behind bars, without providing details.

Two of the men seized alongside Camara were also returned to the prison.

Prosecutor General Yamoussa Conte said in a statement on Monday that nine people had died in the jailbreak operation.

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Three were suspected attackers, while the others included four members of Guinea security forces and two people, presumed to be civilians, who had been in an ambulance, and were reportedly caught in crossfire.

The prosecutor general also said he was ordering an investigation against Camara and the other three men over the alleged killing of security force members and for alleged manslaughter.

The junta in the West African country, which seized power in September 2021, late on Sunday published a series of decrees pronouncing the removal from their jobs of dozens of members of the military and prison administrative staff.

Pivi, a leading figure during Camara’s rule, and two other colonels who also escaped from jail on Saturday, were among those removed.

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On Trial 

Camara, 58, has been detained since going on trial in September 2022.

He and about 10 other former military and government officials, including the three colonels, stand accused over a massacre in 2009 carried out by security forces loyal to the then junta leader.

Some 156 people were killed and at least 109 women were raped at a political rally attended by opposition supporters in a Conakry stadium on September 28 and in the days that followed, according to a UN-mandated enquiry.

Camara — who came to power in a coup in December 2008 — and his co-defendants are charged with murder, sexual violence, torture, abduction and kidnapping.

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The trial is unprecedented in a country ruled for decades by authoritarian regimes, where people had become used to the impunity of the security forces.

It had been due to resume on Monday but was adjourned because of a strike by lawyers.

Camara seized power immediately after the death of Lansana Conte, Guinea’s second post-independence president, who had ruled autocratically for 24 years.

Several months after the massacre, Camara was ousted after suffering a head wound in an attempted assassination by his aide de camp in December 2009.

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He was treated in Morocco before fleeing into exile in Burkina Faso and returned to Guinea last year to stand trial.

Guinea, with a population of 14 million, is currently led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who overthrew civilian president Alpha Conde in September 2021.

 

AFP

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