Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 12:43 UK

Guinea army 'bayoneted victims'

the capital Conakry
The military leader said even he could not control all the soldiers

Eyewitnesses say Guinea soldiers bayoneted and knifed opposition supporters after opening fire at a rally killing at least 125 people.

The reports emerged as the military leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara admitted some of the security forces had lost control.

But he denied any knowledge of women being sexually assaulted by soldiers.

Victims and witnesses told US-based Human Rights Watch women were stripped and abused by the security forces.

"I saw the Red Berets [an elite unit within the military] catch some of the women who were trying to flee, rip off their clothes, and stick their hands in their private parts," one witness said.

I saw several women stripped and then put insde the military trucks
Eyewitness at rally

"Others beat the women, including on their genitals. It was pathetic - the women were crying out."

Another eyewitness said: "I saw several women stripped and then put inside the military trucks and taken away. I don't know what happened to them."

An estimated 50,000 people were at the stadium to protest at rumours that Capt Camara wants to run for president next year.

Demonstrators carried placards reading "No to Dadis" and "Down with the army in power".

Guinean human rights activist Souleymane Bah told Reuters news agency that people trying to escape from the shooting were "caught and finished off with bayonets".

Opposition leader Sidya Toure: "They just started to shoot people directly"

There has been worldwide condemnation of the violence.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the Guinean authorities to exercise maximum restraint, while the West African regional body Ecowas is reported to be pursuing sanctions against the military regime.

The BBC's Alhassan Sillah in Conakry says five key opposition leaders arrested after the unrest have been released after the intervention of the Islamic Council.

Sidya Toure, a former prime minister, told our reporter he had returned home to find his home completely looted.

Four cars had also been destroyed, along with his library.

Two of the leaders - Cellou Dalein Diallo and Jean-Marie Dore - are in hospital.

On Monday, a doctor at a government hospital in Conakry said his wards looked like "a butchery".

Our reporter says Capt Camara said in an interview on French and Senegalese radio that the security forces had been provoked by a stampede.

He did not say how many people had died, but acknowledged that "uncontrollable soldiers" were responsible.

He said even as head of state it was difficult to control them when there was tension in the country.

'Only the beginning'

Our correspondent says Conakry is calm at the moment, but most people are remaining at home.

Paul Melly, African analyst

This reminds us that the army which took power in December is in fact the same army that underpinned the Lansana Conte regime and the same army that was involved in the very bloody repression of protests in January and February of 2007.

Capt Moussa Dadis Camara promised he wouldn't stand in any election in 2009 but by putting the election back to 2010 he's, as it were, got out of that promise.

Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Toure represent potentially the greatest threat to any candidacy by Dadis Camara should Guinea be allowed a free election. Both originated as prime ministers attempting to carry through reforms under the old regime; both found their reform programmes derailed.

Guinea is naturally quite wealthy. It's not easy to just force down a regime through external pressure. The Conte regime survived years of the suspension of European aid without ever caving in to the EU's demands for political reform.

All shops and schools are closed and there is little traffic on the roads, he says.

Capt Camara staged a coup last December hours after the death of President Lansana Conte, who had ruled for more than two decades.

The military takeover initially had some popular support, but in recent weeks there have been several anti-government protests.

Guinea expert Gilles Yabi told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the rally was not a surprise.

"This is only the beginning of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations we can expect in the next few months," he said.

Should Capt Camara stand for president, he said, it would be a violation of the tacit agreement between military and civil forces which has kept him in power.

And it would mark a perpetuation of the kind of rule that Guinea has seen for the past decade - which the military had promised to sweep away.

Capt Camara's rule has been characterised by eccentric displays of power - such as forcing members of the elite presidential guard to beg for forgiveness on national TV after they roughed up a veteran officer.

Former aides and officials have been accused of corruption and links to the drugs trade, including the son of former President Lansana Conte, who was shown confessing on TV to smuggling cocaine.

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