February 7, 2018 / 2:59 PM / 6 months ago

Five infants die in Guinea in fire linked to post-election riots

CONAKRY (Reuters) - At least five small children have died in a fire in Guinea linked to post-election riots in a town in the centre of the country, government officials said on Wednesday.

The children died in Dinguiraye on Tuesday, said Minister of Territorial Administration Bourema Conde and blamed their deaths on the fighting. In a statement on state television, he did not specify what caused the fire and gave no details of the children who he said were infants.

A gendarmerie spokesman said: “There were five children who died in the clashes.”

The violence is linked to opposition fears that President Alpha Conde may seek to change the constitution to seek a third term at elections in 2020. Conde has declined to comment on his intentions.

Clashes broke out between young people wielding clubs and knives in several cities after opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo alleged fraud in Sunday’s long-delayed vote for mayors and neighbourhood chiefs.

Violence has also been reported since Sunday in the capital Conakry, where young people erected barricades and burned tyres in some suburbs, and in the nearby city of Kindia, where a young man died on Monday in confrontations with security forces.

Shortly after the vote, Diallo denounced “massive fraud” and threatened that his supporters would take to the streets. The opposition charges that Conde is trying to install loyalists across different levels of government to smooth the path toward a possible constitutional change.

Conde’s ruling party has denied the accusations of fraud.

In a statement, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the top U.N. official in West Africa, called on all sides “to avoid any acts of violence in order to allow the institutions in charge of the electoral process to pursue their work in serenity”.

Many Guineans are also angry that the country’s rich reserves of bauxite, used to make aluminium, and iron ore have done little to address constant power cuts, sparse jobs and low public sector salaries.

Those frustrations led to riots last year near some of the country’s largest bauxite mines, interrupting production and resulting in several deaths.

Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Joe Bavier and Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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