CONAKRY (Reuters) - Authorities in Guinea have arrested up to 80 suspects, many of them soldiers, after a failed assassination attack on President Alpha Conde, police and political sources said on Wednesday.
Conde narrowly escaped two armed assaults on his residence on Tuesday which killed three people and has sought to reassure investors that he is fully in control of the turbulent West African country.
The assaults raised concerns about the country’s progress towards drawing a line under unstable leadership that is prone to coups, and make the most of its place as the world’s top exporter of aluminium ore bauxite.
A former army chief sacked by Conde in December and at least one former presidential guard member were arrested hours after the attack, but police and presidency sources said 70 others have also been detained.
“For now, the number of people being held is between 70 and 80. About 60-65 percent of them are soldiers,” said a senior police source, asking not to be named.
A presidency source confirmed that “many people had been arrested” after the attack, the biggest threat to Conde since he won a November 2010 election.
The poll restored civilian rule and started to boost investor confidence after nearly two years of junta rule following the 2008 death of long-time ruler Lansana Conte.
But Conde has inherited a nation crippled by decades of misrule and will have to tackle the prickly issues of corruption and army reform — which are likely to earn him enemies — if he wants to bring about concrete change.
Conde tried to reassure those ready to plough money into the country to tap the vast iron reserves.
“(Investors) need security and justice,” Conde told foreign envoys in Conakry in comments broadcast by state television late on Tuesday.
“I think that what happened had a number of aims, notably to create the perception that Guinea is unstable. But we are certain that this is an incident that will be rapidly brought under control.”
Guinea relies on minerals for more than 70 percent of its exports and is reviewing its mining code to give the state a bigger share in projects — part of a global trend for resource-rich nations to capitalise on rising commodities prices.
An aide close to Conde said Tuesday’s violence could spook investors.
“It is clear that investors will be watching closely what is going on,” said the aide, who declined to be identified. “In the short term, they are going to wait a bit before taking any decisions.”
Nouhou Thiam, an army general who was sacked by Conde in one of his first moves to reform an army notorious for its lack of discipline, was among those arrested, a senior police source said on Tuesday, giving no further details.
According to military sources, other officers arrested included Sidiki Camara, also known as “ De Gaulle”, and Alpha Ousmane Barry, nicknamed AOB.