S.Africa says investigating Guinea mercenary report

Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:58pm GMT

* SA government, security services probing claims

* Junta may be anticipating poll protests

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 18, (Reuters) - South Africa is investigating allegations that some of its citizens acting as mercenaries are training Guinea's military junta, a senior government official said.

Guinea's opposition is demanding the military junta give up the power it seized last December. Tensions have risen since the Sept. 28 killings of opposition protesters in a soccer stadium by security forces, an incident human rights groups described as a pre-planned massacre.

Ayanda Ntsaluba, director general of South Africa's International Relations and Co-operation department, said in a statement late on Tuesday that Pretoria was investigating reports of mercenary involvement.

"The allegation is that there is a group of South African mercenaries training militia largely recruited on an ethnic basis ... and this is relevant with respect to the upcoming elections in Guinea," Ntsaluba said.

South African law -- the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act -- prohibits citizens from fighting for a foreign force without permission from the government.

Elections were due to be held in Guinea in January but observers say they are unlikely to go ahead. Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore is leading an international mediation effort but nothing has come from the talks.   Continued...

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