UPDATE 1-Clashes, rumours stoke Guinea tension after poll delay

* Clashes, looting after new poll delay

* Reports of poisoning of Conde supporters stoke tension

* Conde spokesman says one dead, more than 100 ill

(Adds reactions of parties, update on violence)

By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY, Oct 23 (BestGrowthStock) – Security forces in Guinea’s
capital fired live rounds to try to stop fighting and looting,
residents said, and violence also erupted in several other towns
after an election set for this weekend was indefinitely delayed.

Tensions were made worse by rumours started on Friday that a
group of supporters of one of the candidates had been poisoned.

The world’s top bauxite exporter was to hold a presidential
run-off on Oct. 24 between former prime minister Cellou Dalein
Diallo and rival Alpha Conde, but preparations for the poll were
marred by rows in the election commission and street violence.

“The security forces have deployed and they have intervened.
We heard gunfire and people ran home,” a resident of Dixinn, a
Conakry neighbourhood, told Reuters.

Clashes were also reported around the Madina market, which
is Conakry’s largest and a potential flashpoint, and the towns
of Kankan and Siguiri. Calm was restored later in the day,
witnesses said.

The election commission, now headed by a Malian because of
doubts over the impartiality of the body’s former boss,
indefinitely delayed the poll on Friday evening. [ID:nLDE69L22H]
Neither camp has complained about the delay.

Shortly after the announcement, the poisoning rumours spread
around a city already brimming with political tension.

“Clashes erupted everywhere after this information spread,”
said a senior police officer, who asked not to be named.

One person died and more than 100 were ill, said Conde
spokesman Moustaphe Naite. An initial probe had found that acid
had been put in the drinks of Conde’s supporters at a meeting,
he said.

BEATEN BY RIOTERS

It was not possible to confirm the reports of the poisoning,
but an investigation had begun, the policeman said.

A Reuters witness saw about 60 people who were being treated
on Friday evening in the emergency ward at Ignace Deen hospital.

The same police source and a witness said a 15-year-old who
had drunk water at Conde’s meeting died after vomiting blood.

“Aside from this girl who died in hospital, many people were
injured in last night’s violence. People took advantage (of the
violence) to loot some shops,” the police officer said.

Ibrahima Sory Camara, a resident of Kaloum neighbourhood,
said shops had been looted and people beaten by angry rioters.

Sunday’s election was meant to complete the process of
restoring civilian rule to Guinea, nearly two years after a
coup. The polls would be the first free vote since independence
from France in 1958.

The new delay could give the electoral commission time to
solve problems which emerged after a relatively peaceful first
round of voting in June. New election commission head General
Siaka Sangare described voting conditions as “deplorable”.

Both Conde and Diallo have pledged to include each other in
any future government, whoever wins. [ID:nLDE69A24H]

But there are fears that the delay could raise the chances
of clashes between Conde’s Malinke and Diallo’s Peul ethnic
groups, or even a new military coup.

The United Nations called on Friday evening for a new
election date to be set quickly.
(Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Louise Ireland)

UPDATE 1-Clashes, rumours stoke Guinea tension after poll delay