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Gunfire and barricades in Guinea as president heads for third term


By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Gunfire rang out across Guinea's capital Conakry on Friday and security forces dispersed protesters after results showed President Alpha Conde winning re-election in a poll the opposition says was unconstitutional.

Conde, 82, won around twice as many votes as his nearest rival, opposition candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo, with 37 of 38 districts counted, according to preliminary results from the election commission on Thursday night.

The president's decision to run for a third term has sparked repeated protests over the past year, resulting in dozens of deaths, including at least 17 in skirmishes since Sunday's vote.

Conde says a constitutional referendum in March reset his two-term limit, but his opponents say he is breaking the law by holding onto power.

Diallo's camp said it has found evidence of fraud and will contest the result in the constitutional court. A member of the national electoral commission told local radio on Friday that there had been "anomalies" during the counting process, saying the commission had invalidated a number of vote tally sheets.

A spokesman for the commission denied this.

Gunfire was heard in the Sonfonia neighbourhood of Conakry, where Diallo supporters clashed with security forces, witnesses said.

"There were warning shots. The police intervened to clear the barricades and disperse the demonstrators," Oumar Camara, a local resident, told Reuters.

The National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), an opposition coalition, called for nationwide demonstrations from Monday. "The FNDC invites ... all democrats who love peace and justice to respond to this patriotic call to oust Alpha Conde and his mafia clan," it said.

ATTACK ON FUEL TRAIN

Several train cars carrying fuel belonging to Russian aluminum producer Rusal were also attacked in Sonfonia, said Saadou Nimaga, secretary general of the mining ministry.

Rusal said supporters of an opposition candidate blocked the railway and road it uses to move bauxite, an aluminum ore, to port but that traffic had since resumed.

Guinea has the world's largest bauxite reserves.

The United States and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the violence and urged all parties to resolve disputes peacefully through legal channels.

Conde, a former opposition leader who was sentenced to death in 1970 by Marxist President Sekou Toure, finally won the top job in 2010. His election raised hopes for democratic progress but critics say he has stifled dissent.

Diallo, 68, is a former prime minister who finished runner-up to Conde in the 2010 and 2015 elections.

Friday's violence followed a series of clashes on Thursday in which at least four people were killed.

Internet and phone access were severely disrupted on Friday morning, residents and digital rights groups said. Authorities in Guinea, as in much of sub-Saharan Africa, have in the past cut internet access during times of unrest.

The government was not available to comment on internet access on Friday, but network data for monitoring group NetBlocks showed that the internet was disrupted from 0730 GMT, including on leading cellular operator Orange.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb and Edward McAllister; Additional reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Aaron Ross, Andrew Cawthorne and Jonathan Oatis)

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