New clashes erupt before Guinea vote

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Security forces in Guinea’s capital used tear gas to break up clashes that erupted Sunday between supporters of the opposition and ruling parties campaigning for long-delayed and hotly-contested legislative elections, resulting in multiple injuries, witnesses said.

The clashes come one day after a United Nations special envoy announced that the vote, scheduled for Tuesday, would be pushed back to Sept. 28 in response to opposition concerns about the voter list and other issues.

A group supporting the ruling party of President Alpha Conde was gathering in Conakry’s Bambeto neighborhood when a caravan of opposition supporters on motorbikes approached and provoked a confrontation Sunday afternoon, said Kaba Mamady, one of the Conde supporters.

“We were dancing and having our rally when the bikers came and entered our circle. They provoked us and we would not leave,” Mamady said.

But opposition supporter Gadirou Barry said the altercation began when ruling party supporters lobbed stones at the opposition caravan and later set a minibus on fire.

He said 20 people were injured, though officials couldn’t confirm that number.

Guinea’s last legislative vote took place more than a decade ago, and new polls were first slated to be held in 2007. However, repeated delays have left the country without a functioning legislature and issues surrounding the vote have fueled violent protests.

Late Sunday, residents of Bambeto and nearby neighborhoods reported that police and gendarmes were using tear gas to disperse demonstrators who were breaking into vehicles and burning tires.

Dore Morifing, a ruling party supporter, said the security forces were also resorting to more forceful means in some places.

“The gendarmes are going after the demonstrators with batons and belts. I saw five who were injured in the head,” he said.

Security forces set up roadblocks in several places, restricting access to the neighborhoods.

A presidential statement read out on state television Sunday night said the campaign period would continue until midnight on Thursday.

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